It’s Been 43 Years Since a Human has Been on the Moon

This Apollo 11-flown U.S. flag on a crew-signed presentation certificate sold for $71,875 at a November 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On July 16, 1969, three astronauts lay strapped on their backs in their space module atop a massive Saturn V rocket. Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins were going on a trip into the Florida sky headed for a landing on the moon.

The Apollo space program had begun just eight years earlier in April 1961. On April 12, the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first person into space and to orbit the Earth. That stirred President Kennedy’s competitive juices.

After Gagarin’s 90-minute orbit, JFK wrote to VP Lyndon Johnson – chairman of the National Space Council – asking: “Do we have a chance of beating the Soviets by putting a lab into space, or a trip around the moon … or by a rocket to go to the moon and back with a man?”

At the time, the American space program was not far behind – as Alan Shepard had traveled into space on May 5, 1961 – but lagged in the technology to reach the moon.

The Russians had already succeeded in launching three hard-landing rockets (unmanned spacecraft shot up with a goal of simply hitting the moon) and America was two years away from that.

So after Shepard’s feat, JFK issued his famous challenge while addressing Congress. “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Back in Florida, Apollo 11 – with a mighty roar – lifted off into space to meet that challenge. Only 11 minutes after liftoff, it was in orbit with the three astronauts feeling the early stages of weightlessness.

Thirty-eight-year-old Neil Armstrong was the commander and would be accompanied by Aldrin on the moonwalk after the lunar module Eagle separated from the command module Columbia.

Michael Collins would not touch the moon’s surface, as he was responsible for making sure the Eagle launched and then re-docked for the journey back to Earth.

While only eight years had passed since JFK’s challenge, they had been difficult, turbulent ones. JFK was dead from an assassin’s bullet, as were brother Bobby and MLK Jr.

Riots in major cities and the Vietnam War had ripped at the nation’s fabric. The counterculture of drugs, sex and rock ’n’ roll was still in full throttle. (We were in San Jose and mildly surprised by the daily chaos just 45 miles up Highway 101 in San Francisco. Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park were surreal.)

As millions of Americans watched Apollo 11 with awe and admiration, others felt it was a giant, expensive boondoggle designed to divert attention from widespread racial tensions and the 10 million people living below the poverty line.

Had America lost its mojo or were we entering a new, better phase? The jury was divided.

But nothing had distracted NASA except for a tragedy in 1967 when three astronauts on Apollo 1 died in a launch-pad fire. But they persevered and by July 1969 had made four successful manned flights, put spacecraft into orbit around the moon and tested the lunar module.

The Russian program unraveled when a chief scientist died and their highly secret N1 rockets exploded at least four times. Soviet politicians privately ceded the race to America and could only watch from the sidelines.

It took Apollo 11 three days to reach the moon and on July 19 the Columbia entered lunar orbit. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Eagle and landed it on the moon.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” It was July 20, 1969.

There were four more manned missions to the moon. The last was in December 1972. Then the program was scrapped.

It has been 43 years since a human has been on the moon and we now rely on Ridley Scott (The Martian) and other filmmakers to fill the gap as we struggle with overpopulation, geopolitics and terrorism and a resurgence of racial tension.

Progress is difficult.

P.S. A surprising number of people (6 percent to 20 percent by annual polling) believe the whole moon thing was a hoax, anyway.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Rocky Marciano Remains the Only Undefeated Heavyweight Champion

Rocky Marciano gave this pendant to actor/comedian Joey Bishop, who then gifted it to Sylvester Stallone after the first Rocky film came out in 1976. The pendant realized $25,000 at a December 2015 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On Sept, 21, 1955, Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano defeated Light Heavy Champion Archie Moore for his 49th consecutive win.

Exactly 30 years later to-the-day, IBF Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes was a strong favorite to tie Marciano’s win-streak record, but lost in a stunning upset to Michael Spinks.

Marciano defended his championship six times and was never beaten in his career. In 1951, he beat 37-year-old Joe Louis in an upset and Louis retired … permanently … after the fight.

Marciano had a remarkable KO record of 87.75 percent and only one boxer – Ezzard Charles – was able to last 15 rounds.

On Aug. 31, 1969 – a day before his 46th birthday – Marciano died in a tragic plane crash near Newton, Iowa (en route to Des Moines). The pilot hit a tree two miles short of the runway.

Marciano remains the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion, 49-0, and boxing experts rank him No. 9 or No. 10 on the all-time best list. He was the inspiration for the Rocky film series that Sylvester Stallone used to great advantage.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Governor Hiram Johnson was an Intriguing California ‘Progressive’

Campaign posters featuring Theodore Roosevelt and Hiram Johnson for the 1912 presidential election are popular with collectors.

By Jim O’Neal

When Arnold Schwarzenegger (AS) replaced California governor Grey Davis, it was after a special recall election on Oct. 7, 2003.

During his gubernatorial campaign, AS often invoked the name of Hiram Johnson, an earlier California governor. Johnson was directly responsible for the introduction of the law that allowed state officials to be recalled. AS also referred to Johnson’s progressive legacy.

Johnson became governor of California in 1910 as a member of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, a liberal Republican movement. Two years later, Johnson was a founder of the Progressive Party that Teddy Roosevelt adopted for his 1912 presidential run. Roosevelt recruited Johnson as his running mate, but they lost to Woodrow Wilson.

Johnson was easily reelected governor in 1914, and in 1916 he defeated Democrat George S. Patton Sr. for the U.S. Senate (he was the father of George S. Patton Jr., the general of 3rd U.S. Army fame).

Johnson had a long 30-year career in the Senate and was very popular.

In 1934, he was reelected with an astounding 94.5 percent of the popular vote as both Democrats and Republicans nominated him! His only opponent was a socialist, George Kirkpatrick.

On Aug. 25, 2009, AS and his wife Maria announced that Hiram Johnson would be one of 13 inductees into the California Hall of Fame (a group that included Carol Burnett, Andy Grove, Rafer Johnson, Joan Kroc, George Lucas and Chuck Yeager).

AS may have been unaware that as governor, Johnson supported the California Alien Land Law of 1913. This law prevented Asian immigrants (excluded from naturalized citizenship because of race) from owning any land. The law was explicitly intended to discourage immigration (primarily the Japanese) and to foster an inhospitable atmosphere to current immigrants … in the hope they would leave the state.

This was followed by the California Alien Land Law of 1920, which closed many “loopholes” in the 1913 law.

In 1923, the laws were upheld in the Supreme Court and not invalidated until 1952 by the California Supreme Court under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Generally speaking, there was strong anti-Asian sentiment in California, starting with the Chinese and ending with the Japanese internment during the Second World War.

By 2009, the focus had entirely shifted south to our neighbor Mexico, and Johnson’s biased legislation had long faded from memory.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Gettysburg Symbolizes Horror of War, Quest for Equality and Freedom

This 1936 50-cent coin (MS68 PCGS), commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, sold for $48,875 at a May 2007 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

People who read about American history are aware of the Battle of Gettysburg and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They are less familiar with the details of these famous events.

In early May of 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia pitted an outnumbered Robert E. Lee against “Fighting Joe” Hooker, whose Army of the Potomac was twice the size of Lee’s army. However, the Confederate general won the battle by outmaneuvering Hooker, which resulted in Lincoln replacing him.

Chancellorsville was also where General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (Lee’s right arm) was killed.

Buoyed by success, General Lee then turned north into Pennsylvania with plans to capture Harrisburg and then surround Washington, D.C. This would change the entire war. However, on July 1, 1863, the Union Army – now under General George Meade – blocked Lee at the crossroad town of Gettysburg. This is where the famous battle occurred.

The fighting raged over three days and was highlighted by southern General George Pickett’s famous charge on July 3 where his division suffered staggering casualties and forced Lee’s entire army to retreat. “Pickett’s Charge” became known as the “high water mark” of the Confederacy as the South slowly spiraled downward over the next two long years.

When General Meade finally moved south after Lee’s retreat, he advised Lincoln, “I cannot delay to pick up the debris on the battlefield.”

And quite a battlefield horror it was.

Eight thousand bodies and the corpses of 3,000 horses still lay unburied across the ridges and farmland of Gettysburg. Burial resources were scarce and the most they could do was lightly cover the bodies with dirt. The horses were burned in great piles south of the town.

Soon, relatives of Union soldiers began to scavenge through the shallow graves looking for loved ones. Arms, legs and even heads were left protruding and the horror was magnified when crows, pigs and flies descended looking for food.

Something had to be done and the job fell to William Saunders, a cemetery landscape architect. Then came the task of digging up the dead, identification and reburial.

Saunders shaped the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg (now called Gettysburg National Cemetery) and it was here on Nov. 19, 1863, that President Lincoln uttered the 272 words that became so well known.

The main speaker for the event was Harvard President Edward Everett, who droned on for two hours before Lincoln in a 13,000-word speech. The next day, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, as you did in two minutes.”


Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Joan of Arc a Symbol of French National Identity and Pride for Six Centuries

This oil on canvas titled Joan of Arc, after German painter Hermann Anton Stilke (1803-1860), went to auction in February 2015.

By Jim O’Neal

When Joan of Arc fell into the hands of the English in 1430 in the city of Rouen, it was as if she had been taken by the devil. These were men intent on putting to death a “sorcerer,” as they called her.

She had been born in early 1412 at Domrémy and grew up working on the family farm. When she was 13, the village church bells summoned up voices from saints, as well as directly from God.

It was near the end of the Hundred Years’ War and England had just won a major battle at Agincourt, in addition to controlling Paris and Reims. As Joan started hearing the voices, the English were besieging Orleans, the last loyal city north of the Loire. Even worse, French King Charles VI was insane (he thought he was made out of glass) and a vicious internal struggle for power was under way with one faction siding with the English.

Joan’s saints told her to drive the English out of France and bring the real heir to the throne, Dauphin Charles, to Reims to be crowned. She dressed in men’s clothes (including armor, shield and sword) and rallied the French troops to lift the siege of Orleans. They then captured several other towns and escorted the Dauphin to Reims, where he was crowned King Charles VII.

Suddenly, the English, who had been on the verge of total victory, were forced into a defensive mode … remarkably, by a young woman, no less.

After capturing her, the English quickly scheduled her trial, moved her to Rouen and placed her in leg irons chained to a huge piece of wood and guarded 24 hours a day. After her trial, she was faced with death by burning, so she agreed to publicly renounce her “voices” and make penance for her errors. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, but then claimed the voices had returned!

The court then sentenced her to be burned at the stake. Distraught, she cried out, “Am I to be treated so horribly and cruelly that my body which has never been corrupted must be consumed and reduced to ash? Ah! I would seven times rather be beheaded than to thus be burned.”

At 9 a.m. the next day, Joan of Arc was placed in a cart and taken to the marketplace. Ten thousand spectators pushed and shoved to gain the best vantage point. She was chained to a post, with her hands high above her, and the wood set ablaze.

As the flames enveloped her, she began to cry out for holy water. Her suffering lasted a long time – the executioner explained the stake was too high for him to mercifully strangle her (as was customary). She was burned to ashes and they were thrown into the Seine … all except her heart – which, according to legend, did not burn.

The Catholic Church canonized her in 1920.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

In Super Bowl’s Afterglow, Let’s Remember All-Time Great Paul Hornung

This 1957 Topps Paul Hornung trading card #151, PSA Mint 9, realized $28,800 at a February 2017 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Super Bowl I was played on Jan. 15, 1967, in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum (yes, I was there) and the Green Bay Packers (NFL) defeated the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL) in a lopsided game, 35-10.

The only player on the Green Bay roster who did not play was the all-time great Paul Hornung, due to a pinched neck nerve.

Hornung was an all-around player that Coach Vince Lombardi had labeled “the most versatile player in football.” He played halfback (primarily), but also quarterback and placekicker (field goals and PAT).

In 1960 (the last year of 12-game seasons), he set the single season scoring record of 176 points … a record that lasted 46 years until 2006, after the league had extended the season to 14 games. The following year, 1961, he set the NFL record for most points scored (19) in an NFL Championship game.

Later in his career, he became the oldest player to score five touchdowns in a single game (29 years and 354 days old).

But it all really got started at Notre Dame, where he also played basketball. In 1956, he won the Heisman Trophy despite playing on a mediocre team. Mighty Notre Dame was 2-8 that year and Hornung was the only player to win the Heisman with a losing team. Many consider Hornung the greatest all-around player in Notre Dame history.

The Heisman Trophy was named in honor of John Heisman, who was a coach at Georgia Tech when the team beat Cumberland College 222-0 in 1916. In that game, kicker Jim Preas had 16 straight point-after-touchdowns, a single game record. Sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, “Cumberland’s finest play was when halfback Allen circled right end for a 6-yard loss.”

Back to Paul Hornung. As a player, he was the first (only?) to win the Heisman, be drafted first in the NFL, win the NFL MVP, and then be inducted into the High School, College and NFL halls of fame.

He also had a great sense of humor. He often said, “Never get married in the morning. You just never know who you might meet that night.” However, he did get married in the morning and when asked about it replied, “Well, if it didn’t work out, I didn’t want to blow the whole day.”

P.S. Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended for a year in 1963 for alleged gambling. Commissioner Pete Rozelle ran a tight ship.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Edgar Mitchell Was An American Space Hero

The Intelligent Collector learned today that Edgar Mitchell, the sixth of 12 American astronauts to walk on the moon, died Thursday. Editor Hector Cantu interviewed Mitchell for our Spring 2008 issue, with excerpts re-published here to recognize and honor an American hero:

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As lunar module pilot for Apollo 14, Edgar Mitchell was the sixth man to walk on the moon. With Alan Shepard, he holds the record for the longest time on the surface for missions without the Lunar Rover – nine hours and 17 minutes. The 1971 mission, the third Apollo mission to land on the moon, had numerous other accomplishments: the first mission focused on lunar science, longest distance traversed on foot on the lunar surface, and the largest payload returned from the moon, 99 pounds. Mitchell remained with NASA until he retired from the Navy in 1972.

Q: How did walking on the moon change your life?
Mitchell: Walking on the moon did not, but seeing Earth from deep space in its place in the larger picture of the cosmos did. I realized and experienced at a visceral level that the molecules making up my body, the spacecraft, Earth and everything in and on it were made in an ancient generation of stars … and that everything is interconnected. It was a powerful epiphany that has caused quite a different approach to living for me.

Q: You returned from space more than 35 years ago. Are we as humans where you thought we’d be 35 years later, as far as exploring space and landing on other planets?
Mitchell: When getting my doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s, I thought [humans] might be ready for a trip to Mars by 1982. Clearly, that did not happen.

Q: What did you collect as a kid?
Mitchell: I was not a collector. My hobby was building model aircraft when I wasn’t working. [Today, I have a] collection of space flight memorabilia from my astronaut days, plus mementos from my travels to many parts of the globe during the past 40 years.

Q: What’s the most valuable item you had when you were growing up?
Mitchell: My pony. Following that, the calves that I raised, shown at the county fairs and sold at auction as a 4H Club member. We were a farm and ranching family.

Q: What kind of personal items did NASA allow you to take into space?
Mitchell: Any small, lightweight personal items for the family and friends like medallions, flags, rings, pins, broaches. For example, I carried for Gen. Omar Bradley his five-star collar insignia from World War II. And we carried a significant number of state and national flags for distribution to dignitaries and government officials.

Q: Explain the comments you’ve made about UFOs. What do you believe?
Mitchell: My own investigations, plus briefings by competent authorities at appropriate levels, allow me to know that we have been visited by alien beings. I have not been reticent to say that in appropriate circumstances.

Q: What is your passion these days?
Mitchell: My life is now about creating a sustainable future on Earth for my progeny and all life. We as a species are not currently being proper caretakers for planet Earth and will surely come to regret our short-sightedness in the near future, when it may be too late.

There is Perhaps an Unpleasant Way to Cool the Planet

This special promo poster for the 1969 movie Krakatoa, East of Java went to auction in August 2007.

By Jim O’Neal

Krakatoa, East of Java was a film released in 1969 that starred Maximilian Schell and Brian Keith. Despite being nominated for an Oscar for special effects, it did poorly at the box office (as did its 1970s re-release as Volcano).

Most trivia buffs are aware the movie was loosely based on an actual event in 1883 and that Krakatoa is actually west of Java. Far fewer are familiar with an earlier volcanic event that occurred on April 10, 1815, on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. A mountain named Tambora exploded in a truly spectacular fashion that was heard more than 2,000 miles away.

It was the biggest volcanic explosion in 10,000 years – 150 times greater than Mount St. Helens and equivalent to 60,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Thirty-six cubic miles of smoky ash and dust erupted, killing an estimated 80,000+ people with the blast and tsunamis.

The 1815 Tambora eruption was the largest observed in recorded history anywhere on Earth. Clouds of gas and dust encircled the world, causing heavy rain in some areas and unprecedented snowfalls in others. Crops everywhere failed to grow normally.

In Ireland, a famine and associated typhoid epidemic killed 65,000 people.

Spring never came and summer never warmed. 1816 became known as “the year without a summer.”

In the Northeastern United States, a persistent “dry fog” was observed. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight to the point that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rain dispersed the fog and it was identified as a stratospheric surface aerosol veil.

On June 6, snow fell in Albany, N.Y., and conditions were such that most agricultural crops in North America were ruined. In New England, with typical wry humor, the year was dubbed “Eighteen Hundred and Frozen to Death.”

Since Indonesia has over 130 active volcanoes, the most of any nation, I suspect we will be “hearing” from them again in the future (pun intended).

P.S. Since global temperatures post-eruption fell 1.5 degrees, maybe Earth’s natural thermostat can help solve the global-warming trends. However, the side effects would be devastating.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The Roaring Twenties were Outrageous, and Then … Black Tuesday

The Roaring Twenties as depicted in Everett Shinn’s 1925 Curtain Call. This oil on canvas realized $119,500 at a May 2007 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

One man poisoned himself, his wife and their two young children. Another dropped dead in his stockbroker’s office. Still another (in North Carolina) went into his garage and shot himself. Both the rich and poor were affected.

Winston Churchill woke up in a New York hotel room to a loud commotion. “Under my very window, a gentleman cast himself 15 stories and was dashed to pieces.” Irving Berlin explained it this way: “I had all the money I wanted for the rest of my life. Then suddenly I didn’t!”

It was Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929.

The “Roaring Twenties” conjures up Prohibition, gangsters, flappers and bizarre fads: flagpole sitting, dance marathons, talking movies, the Marx Brothers … and the greatest fad of all … playing the stock market.

Previously a rich man’s game, by the 1920s one million Americans owned 300 million shares of stock, much of it bought on margin. And why not? There were all these new things like radios, telephones, affordable cars and, especially, the ticker tape machine allowing individuals to buy and sell stocks almost instantly.

A person would have to be crazy to stick their money in a bank when you could make a small fortune buying “on the margin.” Calvin Coolidge said: “The business of America is business” and business was booming!

New technologies for refining oil allowed companies to produce more iron, steel, gas and chemicals. Then Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon cut corporate taxes and previously marginal companies had more money to spend. Many of them spent it buying stocks, driving the stock market even higher (and also boosting their profits).

During the summer of 1929, the stock market reached an all-time high with a record number of shares purchased. However, astute investors noticed a number of troubling warning signs. First was the ever-increasing number of shares bought on margin, a key indicator of increased leverage and a tell-tale sign of speculation versus investing. Second, only 400 of the 1,200 companies listed on the NYSE were actually increasing their revenues and profits fast enough to justify the higher stock prices. Lastly, “Stock Trusts,” pools of money by wealthy investors, could manipulate individual stocks by simply investing heavily in them.

The stock market was being rigged in plain sight, but only a few like business theorist Roger Babson was warning about an impending crash.

Throughout September and October, market volatility increased sharply and on Oct. 24, a near-crash occurred (Black Thursday) when there was a sharp, terrifying plunge. When the market opened, it went straight down and by mid-afternoon stocks had lost $11 billion. But brokers managed to stabilize it and it recovered 75 percent.

On Monday, there was another plunge as those who had survived decided to try and salvage what they had, despite many calls of reassurance. And on Tuesday, Oct. 29, the carnage really began.

The day started with thousands of people congregating on Wall Street, as if they needed to be present for some historic event. All of the major stocks began to crash.

Brokers were flooded with sell orders.

In two hours, eight million shares were sold. Then more margin calls were made and people began to literally fall into shock. By 3 p.m., after five hours of trading, the market closed. Sixteen million shares had been traded at an estimated loss of $15 billion.

Then stories of suicides began. Will Rogers wrote, “You had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of.” Then businesses began to die as well. First to go were the investment firms, followed by the companies who over-speculated on stocks, and then finally the banks.

Like a house of cards, the Roaring Twenties tumbled to an end and the country was entering the first phase of the Great Depression. It would continue for another 12 long years until we entered World War II.

Nothing like a nice little world war to get the economy humming again.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Inquisition Remains a Dark Stain on Reputations of Ferdinand and Isabella

Documents signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella have appeared at auction, with some pieces realizing more than $13,000.

By Jim O’Neal

On Feb. 6, 1481, seven people were marched out of the Cathedral of Seville, led by chanting black-robed Dominican Friars. The seven were dressed in yellow robes, held votive candles and had nooses around their necks.

These seven people (six men and one woman) were “conversos” – Jews who had been converted to Christianity, but were suspected of having relapsed and practicing the Jewish faith (again).

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had decided everyone in Spain would worship the same God … period. Thus began the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Just as remarkably, it lasted officially for almost 400 years until abolished in 1834, but most active from 1480 to 1530.

Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1469, both devoutly religious Catholics, and wanted all of Spain to worship Christ. Earlier, Judaism, Islam and Christianity had co-existed in peace, but in the 15th century, Jews and Muslims were increasingly persecuted. Many fled or simply converted to Christianity.

But there were widespread rumors of the conversos, which prompted the Catholic Monarchs to investigate. They turned to Pope Sixtus IV for guidance. On Nov. 1, 1478, he issued a papal bull authorizing the Inquisición.

It took three years to complete, but then the purgative flames blazed high.

The seven were marched to an open field, which became known as the Quemadero (or burning place). They were offered a chance to repent … which only offered an option to be strangled … and then burned at the stake.

The Inquisition quickly spread from one Holy Office in Seville to nearly two dozen across the entire country. However, treatment was so harsh that eventually Ferdinand decided to expel all Jews and issued the Alhambra Decree of March 1492, which ordered the expulsion of all Jews and Muslims from Spain in three months.

Historians debate the number that were killed and the actual role of the Catholic Church. However, the Spanish Inquisition remains a dark stain on the otherwise sterling reputations of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].