Da Vinci notebook sells for over 5 million On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in a chest of papers belonging to Guglielmo della Porto, a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had studied Leonardo’s work. In 1717, Thomas Coke, the first earl of Leicester, bought the manuscript and installed it among his impressive collection of art at his family estate in England. More than two centuries later, the notebook–by now known as the Leicester Codex–showed up on the auction block at Christie’s in London when the current Lord Coke was forced to sell it to cover inheritance taxes on the estate and art collection. In the days before the sale, art experts and the press speculated that the notebook would go for $7 to $20 million. In fact, the bidding started at $1.4 million and lasted less than two minutes, as Hammer and at least two or three other bidders competed to raise the price $100,000 at a time. The $5.12 million price tag was the highest ever paid for a manuscript at that time; a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only $2 million in 1978. “I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more,” Hammer said later. “There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this.” Lord Coke, on the other hand, was only “reasonably happy” with the sale; he claimed the proceeds would not be sufficient to cover the taxes he owed. Hammer, the president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, renamed his prize the Hammer Codex and added it to his valuable collection of art. When Hammer died in 1990, he left the notebook and other works to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Several years later, the museum offered the manuscript for sale, claiming it was forced to take this action to cover legal costs incurred when the niece and sole heir of Hammer’s late wife, Frances, sued the estate claiming Hammer had cheated Frances out of her rightful share of his fortune. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder–soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft–at a New Yorkauction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display. 1901 Marconi sends first Atlantic wireless transmission Italian physicist and radio pioneer Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada. Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi studied physics and became interested in the transmission of radio waves after learning of the experiments of the German physicist Heinrich Hertz. He began his own experiments in Bologna beginning in 1894 and soon succeeded in sending a radio signal over a distance of 1.5 miles. Receiving little encouragement for his experiments in Italy, he went to England in 1896. He formed a wireless telegraph company and soon was sending transmissions from distances farther than 10 miles. In 1899, he succeeded in sending a transmission across the English Channel. That year, he also equipped two U.S. ships to report to New York newspapers on the progress of the America’s Cup yacht race. That successful endeavor aroused widespread interest in Marconi and his wireless company. Marconi’s greatest achievement came on December 12, 1901, when he received a message sent from England at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The transatlantic transmission won him worldwide fame. Ironically, detractors of the project were correct when they declared that radio waves would not follow the curvature of the earth, as Marconi believed. In fact, Marconi’s transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space when it was reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada. Much remained to be learned about the laws of the radio wave and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions, and Marconi would continue to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next three decades. In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. After successfully sending radio transmissions from points as far away as England and Australia, Marconi turned his energy to experimenting with shorter, more powerful radio waves. He died in 1937, and on the day of his funeral all British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stations were silent for two minutes in tribute to his contributions to the development of radio. 1929 Cattle pioneer Charles Goodnight dies Charles Goodnight, co-founder of one of the most important southwestern cattle-drive trails, dies on this day. He was 93 years old. Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight came to Texas with his family when he was nine years old, and he thrived in the rugged frontier environment. His skill as a frontiersman and scout won him a position as a regimental guide during the Civil War, and Goodnight became confident that he could blaze a trail across any landscape, no matter how rugged or desolate. By the time the war ended, Goodnight had also built up a herd of cattle on his ranch in Palo Pinto County, Texas, and he decided to combine his interest in ranching with his ability as a trailblazer. At the time, most Texas ranchers drove their herds north to the railheads in the cattle-towns of Kansas for shipment to the East, but Goodnight was convinced that he could make a better profit if he could find a path to drive his cattle to the growing beef markets in New Mexico and Colorado. While buying provisions for his proposed drive, Goodnight met Oliver Loving, a cattleman who was already renowned for his frontier and livestock skills. Loving agreed that Goodnight’s idea was solid and the two men became partners. In 1866, they blazed a 500-mile route from Fort Belknap, Texas, to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Later extended north into Colorado, the Goodnight-Loving Trail became one of the most heavily used cattle trails in the Southwest. Though well utilized, it was a risky ride, since it passed through lands still dominated by small bands of hostile Indians. Loving was killed by Indians while planning a third trip on the trail, but Goodnight continued to use the route for three more years and in 1871 cleared a profit of $17,000. In 1875, Goodnight blazed another cattle trail, this time from New Mexico to Colorado. But he had grown tired of the long and dangerous trail drives and increasingly focused his efforts on his new Colorado ranch. When the Colorado ranch failed, Goodnight transferred the remnants of his herd to the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle to make a fresh start. After convincing a wealthy Irishman to invest large amounts of capital into his new operation, Goodnight succeeded in building his new JA Ranch into one of the major Texas ranches of the day, eventually running more than 100,000 cattle and returning excellent profits. By the time he died, Goodnight had transformed himself from an intrepid trailblazer and cattle driver into one of the great cattle barons of the American West.