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Wilkes

Wilkes

[wilks]
Wilkes, Charles, 1798-1877, American naval officer and explorer, b. New York City, educated by his father. In 1815 he entered the merchant service and received (1818) an appointment as a midshipman. For his survey (1832-33) of Narragansett Bay he was designated (1833) head of the department of charts and instruments of the navy. Although an inexperienced leader, he was put in command of a government exploring expedition intended to provide accurate naval charts for the whaling industry. Wilkes, then a lieutenant, set sail (1838) from Norfolk, Va., in charge of a squadron of six ships and 346 seamen, and accompanied by a team of nine scientists and artists. They sailed around South America, did important research in the S Pacific, and explored the Antarctic. The portion of Antarctica that he explored was subsequently named Wilkes Land. Wilkes explored Fiji in 1840, visited the Hawaiian group, and in May, 1841, entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Pacific coast of the United States, and explored the Pacific Northwest.

After having completely encircled the globe (his was the last all-sail naval mission to do so), Wilkes returned to New York in June, 1842. In four years at sea he had logged some 87,000 miles and lost two ships and 28 men. His Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition (5 vol. and an atlas) appeared in 1844. He edited the scientific reports of the expedition (20 vol. and 11 atlases, 1844-74) and was the author of Vol. XI (Meteorology) and Vol. XIII (Hydrography). Moreover, the specimens and artifacts brought back by expedition scientists ultimately formed the foundation for the Smithsonian Institution collection.

Despite his accomplishments, Wilkes acquired a reputation as an arrogant, cruel, and capricious leader. The impetuosity of his nature, for which he was twice court-martialed, was demonstrated when early in the Civil War, as commander of the San Jacinto, he stopped the British mail ship Trent and, contrary to all regulations, forcibly removed Confederate commissioners John Slidell and James M. Mason. The incident almost involved the Union in a war with England (see Trent Affair). Promoted to the rank of commodore in 1862, he commanded a squadron in the West Indies.

See biography by D. Henderson (1953, repr. 1971); W. Bixby, The Forgotten Voyage of Charles Wilkes (1966); R. Silverberg, Stormy Voyager (1968); A. Gurney, The Race to the White Continent (2000); N. Philbrick, Sea of Glory (2003).

Wilkes, John, 1727-97, English politician and journalist. He studied at the Univ. of Leiden, returned to England in 1746, and purchased (1757) a seat in Parliament. Backed by Earl Temple, Wilkes founded (1762) a periodical, the North Briton, in which he made outspoken attacks on George III and his ministers. In the famous issue No. 45 (1763), Wilkes went so far as to criticize the speech from the throne. He was immediately arrested on the basis of a general warrant (one that did not specify who was to be arrested), but his arrest was adjudged a breach of parliamentary privilege by Chief Justice Charles Pratt, who later ruled also that general warrants were illegal. The government then secured Wilkes's expulsion from Parliament on the grounds of seditious libel and obscenity (Wilkes was notoriously dissolute and the author of an obscene parody of Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, which was used against him).

Wilkes fled (1764) to Paris and was convicted of seditious libel in his absence. He returned in 1768 and was repeatedly elected to Parliament from Middlesex, but each time he was denied his seat by the king's party. The issue, in the eyes of the angry populace, became a case of royal manipulation of parliamentary privilege against Wilkes to restrain the people's right to elect their own representatives. Wilkes was supported by Edmund Burke and the unknown writer Junius, but he was not seated. After 22 months in prison for his libel conviction, he was elected sheriff of London (1771) and lord mayor (1774). In 1774 he was again elected and this time allowed to take his seat in Parliament, where he championed the liberties of the American colonies and fought for parliamentary reform. He lost popular favor for his vigorous action as chamberlain of London in suppressing the Gordon riots (1780). Although a demagogue, Wilkes was a champion of freedom of the press and the rights of the electorate.

See biographies by O. A. Sherrard (1930, repr. 1972), C. P. Chenevix Trench (1962), L. Kronenberger (1974), A. H. Cash (2006), and J. Sainsbury (2006); I. R. Christie, Wilkes, Wyvill and Reform (1962); G. F. E. Rudé, Wilkes and Liberty (1962).

(born Oct. 17, 1725, London, Eng.—died Dec. 26, 1797, London) English politician. The son of a successful malt distiller, he was educated at an academy at Hertford and afterward privately tutored. His marriage to Mary Meade (1747), heiress of the manor of Aylesbury, brought him a comfortable fortune and an assured status among the gentry of Buckinghamshire. A profligate by nature, he was a member of the so-called Hell-Fire Club, which indulged in debauchery and the performance of Black Masses, and he bribed voters to win election to the House of Commons (1757). For an attack on the government in his journal the North Briton (1763), he was prosecuted for libel and expelled from Parliament. Reelected, he continued to print his attacks on the government and was again tried for libel and expelled (1764). Regarded as a victim of persecution and a champion of liberty, he gained widespread popular support. He was again elected to Parliament and again expelled (1769). He become lord mayor of London in 1774. Back in the House of Commons (1774–90), he supported parliamentary reform and freedom of the press.

Learn more about Wilkes, John with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Md., U.S.—died April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Va.) U.S. actor and assassin of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Born into a family of famous actors, he achieved success in Shakespearean roles but resented the greater acclaim enjoyed by his brother, Edwin Booth. A fanatical believer in slavery and the Southern cause, he made plans with co-conspirators to abduct Lincoln; after several failed attempts, he vowed to destroy the president and his cabinet. On April 14, 1865, he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford's Theatre. Though he broke his leg jumping from the president's box, he was able to escape on horseback to a Virginia farm. Tracked down, he refused to surrender and was shot, either by a soldier or by himself.

Learn more about Booth, John Wilkes with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 17, 1725, London, Eng.—died Dec. 26, 1797, London) English politician. The son of a successful malt distiller, he was educated at an academy at Hertford and afterward privately tutored. His marriage to Mary Meade (1747), heiress of the manor of Aylesbury, brought him a comfortable fortune and an assured status among the gentry of Buckinghamshire. A profligate by nature, he was a member of the so-called Hell-Fire Club, which indulged in debauchery and the performance of Black Masses, and he bribed voters to win election to the House of Commons (1757). For an attack on the government in his journal the North Briton (1763), he was prosecuted for libel and expelled from Parliament. Reelected, he continued to print his attacks on the government and was again tried for libel and expelled (1764). Regarded as a victim of persecution and a champion of liberty, he gained widespread popular support. He was again elected to Parliament and again expelled (1769). He become lord mayor of London in 1774. Back in the House of Commons (1774–90), he supported parliamentary reform and freedom of the press.

Learn more about Wilkes, John with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Md., U.S.—died April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Va.) U.S. actor and assassin of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Born into a family of famous actors, he achieved success in Shakespearean roles but resented the greater acclaim enjoyed by his brother, Edwin Booth. A fanatical believer in slavery and the Southern cause, he made plans with co-conspirators to abduct Lincoln; after several failed attempts, he vowed to destroy the president and his cabinet. On April 14, 1865, he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford's Theatre. Though he broke his leg jumping from the president's box, he was able to escape on horseback to a Virginia farm. Tracked down, he refused to surrender and was shot, either by a soldier or by himself.

Learn more about Booth, John Wilkes with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Wilkes-Barre (or /-bɛri/) is the central city of the Wyoming Valley and county seat of Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania. Founded in 1769 and formally incorporated in 1806, the city has an estimated population of 43,123, according to the 2000 census.

The city and valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.

History

Beginnings

The Wyoming Valley was first inhabited by the Shawanese and Delaware Indian tribes in the early 1700s. By 1769, a group, led by John Durkee, became the first Europeans to reach the area. The settlement was named Wilkes-Barre, after John Wilkes and Isaac Barré, two British members of Parliament who supported colonial America.

The initial settlers were aligned with Connecticut, which had a claim on the land that rivaled Pennsylvania's. Armed men loyal to Pennsylvania twice attempted to evict the residents of Wilkes-Barre in what came to be known as the Pennamite Wars. After the American Revolution, the conflict was resolved so that the settlers retained title to their lands but transferred their allegiance to Pennsylvania.

Industrial foundations: manufacturing, coal and railroads

Wilkes-Barre's population exploded due to the discovery of anthracite coal in the 1800s, which gave the city the nickname of "The Diamond City." Hundreds of thousands of immigrants flocked to the city, seeking jobs in the numerous mines and collieries that sprung up.

20th century

The coal industry survived several disasters, including an explosion at the Baltimore Colliery in 1919 that killed 92 miners, but it could not survive the gradual switch to other energy sources. Most coal operations left Wilkes-Barre by the end of World War II, and the 1959 Knox Mine Disaster marked the end of King Coal's heyday. The city entered into a decades-long decline, hastened by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Disastrous flooding

Manufacturing and retail remained Wilkes-Barre's strongest industries, but the city's economy took a major blow from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The storm pushed the Susquehanna River to a height of nearly 41 feet, four feet above the city's levees, flooding downtown with nine feet of water. Six people were killed, 25,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed, and damages were estimated to be $1 billion, with President Richard Nixon sending aid to the area.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Wilkes-Barre attempted to repair the damage from Agnes by building a levee system that rises 41 feet; it has successfully battled less threatening floods of 1996, 2004, and 2006, and the Army Corps of Engineers has praised the quality of the levees.

21st century

On June 9, 2005, Mayor Thomas M. Leighton unveiled his I believe... campaign for Wilkes-Barre, which was intended to boost the city's spirits. Construction began on a planned downtown theatre complex which had a grand opening on June 30, 2006, and renovation of the landmark Hotel Sterling was being pursued by CityVest, a nonprofit developer. The expansion of Wilkes University and King's College has taken place. Also, the canopy and matching street lights in Public Square and across downtown were removed; the replacements are new green lampposts.

In 2006, the City of Wilkes-Barre celebrated its 200th anniversary. There were several events which were scheduled to commemorate this occasion over the July 4 weekend, including a free concert with the Beach Boys in the City's Kirby Park. However, due to extremely heavy rains, the Susquehanna River crested high enough that most of the City had to be evacuated on June 28, 2006, forcing the cancellation of the events. Afterwards, the City rescheduled their Bicentennial Blastoff, their Bicentennial Parade and the Bicentennial Gala to different dates throughout August. The Beach Boys graciously rescheduled their concert and played a Kirby Park concert on Labor Day Weekend, Sunday September 3, 2006, attended by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Government

Executive

The city is headed by a mayor, elected to a four-year term. The current mayor is Tom Leighton, a Democrat who was elected in 2003.

Legislative

The legislative branch of Wilkes-Barre is the City Council, comprising five members who are elected by district to four-year terms. Current members of Council are: Chairperson Kathryn Kane; Vice Chairperson Tony Thomas Jr.; Bill Barrett (former Wilkes-Barre police chief); Rick Cronauer; and Michael Merritt.

Judicial

The City of Wilkes-Barre is served by two City Attorneys, Timothy Henry, Esquire and William E. Vinsko, Jr., Esquire, who advise both the Mayor and City Council.

The Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas is the trial court of general jurisdiction for Wilkes-Barre. Its probation system is divided into two divisions; one for adults, and one for juveniles.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania sits at the Max Rosenn United States Courthouse in downtown Wilkes-Barre on South Main Street. The Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court, John J. Thomas, is son of Thomas C. Thomas, a prominent produce dealer whose terminal remains a prominent part of the Wilkes-Barre skyline.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 43,123 people, 17,961 households, and 9,878 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,296.3 people per square mile (2,430.6/km²). There were 20,294 housing units at an average density of 2,963.1/sq mi (1,143.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.30% White, 5.09% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.53% from other races, and 1.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.

The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 12.6% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.7 males.

The local accent of American English is Northeast Pennsylvania English.

Geography

Wilkes-Barre is located at (41.244581, -75.877918).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.2 square miles (18.6 km²).6.8 square miles (17.7 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.9 km²) of it is water. The total area is 4.60% water.

Roads, railways and transportation

Interstate 81 passes north-south near Wilkes-Barre, and the city is also located near the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is north of Interstate 80.

Public transportation is provided by the Luzerne County Transportation Authority. In addition to servicing the main arteries of the city, it provides transportation for the northern half of the county, as well as a connecting bus to Scranton via an interchange at Pittston with COLTS, the public transit authority of Lackawanna County.

Five international airlines fly from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in nearby Avoca. Smaller, private planes may also use the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort.

The city was at one time served by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (later Erie Lackawanna Railway), Delaware and Hudson Railway, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad, and the Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley Railroad (known as the Laurel Line). The Wilkes-Barre Traction Company formed a streetcar line from Georgetown to Nanticoke and over the river into Plymouth ceasing operations in the mid 1940s. At present, the Canadian Pacific Railway (successor to the Delaware and Hudson) and the Luzerne & Susquehanna Railroad (designated-operator of a county-owned shortline) provide freight service within the city.

Local attractions

Colleges and universities

High schools

Professional sports

Club League Venue Established Parent Club Championships
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees IL, Baseball PNC Field 1937 New York Yankees 2
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins AHL, Ice hockey Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza 1999 Pittsburgh Penguins 0
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers af2, Arena football Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza 2002 N/A 0

Local media outlets

Television

Radio

Facts

  • HBO recognizes Wilkes-Barre as the birthplace of modern cable programming. In November 1972, coincidentally the autumn that followed Hurricane Agnes, 365 subscribers of Service Electric Cable were the first to receive HBO's service.
  • Wilkes-Barre was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.
  • Louis Philippe, the King of France from 1830 to 1840, stayed in Wilkes-Barre while traveling en route to the French Asylum settlement in 1797.
  • Wilkes-Barre has been a popular stop for many presidential candidates: U.S. presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
  • Described by many today as one of America's more "historical cities", Wilkes-Barre has gained considerable bad press (although it is not a major nationally recognized location) since the Knox Mine Disaster. In the 1960 presidential campaign, it garnered attention for its high levels of poverty. In 1972, the damage done by the Agnes flood made international headlines. In the 1990s, the city became known for the poor leadership of Mayor McGroarty. In 2001, a Washington Post columnist described Wilkes-Barre as "awful" and "next-door" Scranton as "awfuler", describing the area as one of the worst metropolitan areas in the United States In 2006, the city made the front page of national newspapers when 200,000 residents were told to evacuate in the wake of flooding that was forecast to reach levels near that of '72 but fell short of predictions.
  • Wilkes-Barre is the birthplace of the Planters Peanuts Company, which was founded in 1906 by Italian immigrant Amedo Obici and partner Mario Peruzzi.
  • It is said that one of the longest home runs in history was hit in Wilkes-Barre. This statement is quoted right from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Yankees News page:"On October 12, 1926, Babe Ruth visited Wilkes-Barre's Artillery Park to play in an exhibition game between Hughestown and Larksville. Suiting up for Hughestown, the Yankee slugger challenged Larksville's hurler Ernie Corkran to throw him his "best stuff" -- a fastball right down the heart of the plate. Corkran obliged and Ruth crushed the pitch into deep right field. When the ball cleared the fence, a good 400 feet away from home plate, it was still rising. It finally landed in Kirby Park on the far side of a high school running track. Ruth himself was so impressed by the feat that he asked that his homer be measured. Originally estimated at 650 feet, the prodigious blast is considered to be the longest home run in baseball's storied history. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Yankees
  • The Wilkes-Barre variation (or Traxler variation, as it is more commonly known) of the Two Knights' Defense is named for the Wilkes-Barre chess club, see this article by Alex Dunne
  • Bingo was popularized after a Wilkes-Barre church preacher approached the game's developer complaining that the original game was not random enough in its potential picks to limit winners. The resulting improvements, in response to that complaint, led directly to the cultural success of the game. See history of Bingo

Notable natives and residents

References

See also

External links

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