On This Day in History

On This Day, Feb. 20, 1993, Fire Engulfs Nightclub During Great White Show

The most famous contract rider in rock-and-roll history may be the one Van Halen used that stipulated that “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” The most tragic contract rider in history, on the other hand, was the one sent ahead to the small bars and nightclubs on the 2003 tour of  “Jack Russell’s Great White,” the touring remnant of the group behind late-80s hits like “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” That rider led, in a very direct way, to the deaths of 100 concert-goers in The Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on this day in 2003. Even in its heyday, Great White was no Van Halen. Yet one can be sure that the contract rider enumerating their onstage and backstage needs circa 1988 must have looked rather different from the one they were...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 19, 1970, The Chicago Seven Sentenced

The Chicago Seven (formerly the Chicago Eight–one defendant, Bobby Seale, was being tried separately) are acquitted of riot conspiracy charges, but found guilty of inciting riot. The eight antiwar activists were charged with the responsibility for the violent demonstrations at the August 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee (NMC); Rennie Davis and Thomas Hayden of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, founders of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”); Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; and two lesser known activists, Lee Weiner and John Froines. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot.  Attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass represented all but Seale.  The trial, presided over by Judge Julius Hoffman, turned into a circus as the defendants and their attorneys used the court as a...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer Dies

On February 18, 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” dies in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 62. An expert in quantum theory and nuclear physics, he was enlisted into the fledgling U.S. atomic weapons program in 1941. In 1942, the “Manhattan Project,” as the program became known, was greatly expanded, and Oppenheimer was asked to establish and direct a secret laboratory to carry out the assignment. He chose Los Alamos, a site in the New Mexico desert that he had visited earlier in life, and together with some of the world’s top physicists began work on the bomb. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was exploded at the “Trinity” test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and only three weeks later the United States dropped the first of two bombs on Japan. Over 200,000 Japanese eventually perished as a result of...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 17, 1966, Brian Wilson’s Masterpiece Takes Root

From the very beginning, the Beach Boys had a sound that was unmistakably their own, but without resident genius Brian Wilson pushing them into deeper waters with his songwriting and production talents, songs like “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” might have been their greatest legacy. While the rest of the band toured during their mid-60s heyday, Wilson lost himself in the recording studio, creating the music for an album—Pet Sounds—that is widely regarded as one of the all-time best, and a single—”Good Vibrations”—on which he lavished more time, attention and money than had ever been spent previously on a single recording. Brian Wilson rolled tape on take one of “Good Vibrations” on February 17, 1966. Six months, four studios and $50,000 later, he finally completed his three-minute-and-thirty-nine-second symphony, pieced together from more than 90 hours of tape recorded during literally hundreds of sessions. Brian Wilson began “Good Vibrations” that...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 16, 1959 – Castro Sworn In

On February 16, 1959, Fidel Castro is sworn in as prime minister of Cuba after leading a guerrilla campaign that forced right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile. Castro, who became commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces after Batista was ousted on January 1, replaced the more moderate Miro Cardona as head of the country’s new provisional government. Castro was born in the Oriente province in eastern Cuba, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had made a fortune building rail systems to transport sugar cane. He became involved in revolutionary politics while a student and in 1947 took part in an abortive attempt by Dominican exiles and Cubans to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. In the next year, he took part in urban riots in Bogota, Colombia. The most outstanding feature of his politics during the period was his anti-American beliefs; he was not yet an overt Marxist....

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 15, 1946 – Major League Baseball Gets First Female Scout

1946 – Edith Houghton, at age 33, was signed as a baseball scout by the Philadelphia Phillies becoming the first female scout in the major leagues. There are different accounts about why Houghton got the job. Some say she bowled over the Phillies’ president, Robert Carpenter, with an uncanny grasp of the game. Others mention the scrapbook she brought along, bulging with newspaper clippings documenting her impressive career as a player in the 1920s and ’30s on the women’s national baseball circuit known as the Bloomer Girls league. Philadelphia sportswriters, bitter at the team’s decade-long swoon at or near the bottom of the standings, said the Phillies had hired her simply because they had nothing to lose. Named to the Phillies’ scouting corps by owner R. R. M. Carpenter, Jr., after the Second World War, when the Phillies transformed themselves from habitual last-place finishers to 1950 National League champions...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 14, 1946 – ENIAC, The First Electronic Computer, is Unveiled

1946 – ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was unveiled. The device, built at the University of Pennsylvania, was the world’s first general purpose electronic computer. Hailed by The New York Times as “an amazing machine which applies electronic speeds for the first time to mathematical tasks hitherto too difficult and cumbersome for solution,” the ENIAC was a revolutionary piece of machinery in its day. In 1942, physicist John Mauchly proposed an all-electronic calculating machine. The U.S. Army, meanwhile, needed to calculate complex wartime ballistics tables. Proposal met patron. The result was ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), built between 1943 and 1945—the first large-scale computer to run at electronic speed without being slowed by any mechanical parts. ENIAC glowed with an unprecedented 18,000 vacuum tubes. To keep so many working simultaneously, Engineers created strict circuit design guidelines to maximize reliability. They ran extensive tests on components and avoided pushing them...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 13, 1633 – Galileo Galilei Arrives in Rome to Face the Inquisition

1633 – Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome for trial before the Inquisition. Galileo’s belief in the Copernican System eventually got him into trouble with the Catholic Church. A committee of consultants declared to the Inquisition, a permanent institution in the Catholic Church charged with the eradication of heresies, that the Copernican proposition that the Sun is the center of the universe was a heresy. Because Galileo supported the Copernican system, he was warned by Cardinal Bellarmine, under order of Pope Paul V, that he should not discuss or defend Copernican theories. In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. However, with the printing of Galileo’s book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition again. Galileo was found guilty of heresy...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 12, 1909 – NAACP Founded to Combat Lynching

1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded, partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth. Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 11, 1990 – Nelson Mandela Released from Prison

1990 – Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in captivity. In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government. In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 10, 1972, Ziggy Stardust Makes His Earthly Debut

It was one of those events that virtually nobody witnessed, yet almost but many wish they had: the concert at London’s Toby Jug pub on February 10, 1972, when the relatively minor rocker named David Bowie became the spaceman Ziggy Stardust. While it might be said of many such historic moments—like John meeting Paul at a backyard birthday party, or Elvis ad-libbing “That’s All Right (Mama)” between takes at Sun Studios—that their significance became clear only in hindsight, there was at least one man who knew exactly where Ziggy’s earthly debut would lead: David Bowie himself. “I’m going to be huge,” is what David Bowie told Melody Maker less than three weeks earlier and still six months prior to the release of the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. “And it’s quite frightening in a way, because I know that when I...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 9, 1950 – McCarthyism Ushers in the Era of the Red Scare

1950 – U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists. This was the beginning of McCarthyism, a period of intense anti-communism, also known as the Red Scare which occurred in the United States from 1948 to about 1956. The word “McCarthyism” now carries connotations of false, even hysterical, accusation, and of government attacks on the political minority. From the viewpoint of the political and cultural elite, the suppression of radicalism and radical organizations in the United States was a struggle against a dangerous subversive element controlled by a foreign power that posed a real danger to the security of the country, thus justifying extreme, even extra-legal measures. From the radical viewpoint it can be seen as class warfare. From the viewpoint of the thousands of innocents who were caught up in the conflict it was a massive violation of civil and Constitutional rights. One...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots Beheaded

After 19 years of imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in England for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I. In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King James V. Her mother sent her to be raised in the French court, and in 1558 she married the French dauphin, who became King Francis II of France in 1559 but died the following year. After Francis’ death, Mary returned to Scotland to assume her designated role as the country’s monarch. In 1565, she married her English cousin Lord Darnley in order to reinforce her claim of succession to the English throne after Elizabeth’s death. In 1567, Darnley was mysteriously killed in an explosion at Kirk o’ Field, and Mary’s lover, the Earl of Bothwell, was the key suspect. Although Bothwell was...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 7, 1990 – Soviet Communist Party Gives up Monopoly on Political Power

The Central Committee of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party agrees to endorse President Mikhail Gorbachev’s recommendation that the party give up its 70-year long monopoly of political power. The Committee’s decision to allow political challenges to the party’s dominance in Russia was yet another signal of the impending collapse of the Soviet system. At the end of three days of extremely stormy meetings dealing with economic and political reforms in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee announced that it was endorsing the idea that the Soviet Communist Party should make “no claim for any particular role to be encoded in the Constitution” that was currently being rewritten. The proposal was but one of many made by President Gorbachev during the meetings. Critics of Gorbachev’s plan charged that dissipating the Communist Party’s power would erode the gains made since the Bolshevik Revolution and would weaken the international stature of the...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 6, 1891- Dalton Gang Commits its First Train Robbery

The members of the Dalton Gang stage an unsuccessful train robbery near Alila,California–an inauspicious beginning to their careers as serious criminals. Bob, Emmett, and Grat Dalton were only three of Lewis and Adeleine Dalton’s 10 sons. The brothers grew up on a succession of Oklahoma and Kansas homesteads during the post-Civil War period, when the region was awash in violence lingering from the war and notorious outlaw bands like the James-Younger Gang. Still, the majority of the Dalton boys became law-abiding citizens, and one of the older brothers, Frank, served as a deputy U.S. marshal. Ironically, Frank’s position in law enforcement brought his younger brothers into lives of crime. When Oklahoma whiskey runners murdered Frank in 1887, Grat took Frank’s place as a deputy marshal and recruited Emmett and Bob as assistants. Disillusioned by the fate of their older law-abiding brother, the three Dalton boys showed little respect for...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 5, 1994: Justice for Medgar Evers

Byron de la Beckwith is convicted of the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers 31 years earlier, ending the lengthiest murder case in American history. Evers was gunned down in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi, home while his wife, Myrlie, and the couple’s small children were inside waiting for their father. Beckwith, widely recognized as the killer, was prosecuted for murder in 1964. However, two all-white (and all-male) juries deadlocked and refused to convict Beckwith. A second trial held in the same year resulted in a hung jury. The matter was dropped when it appeared that a conviction would be impossible. Myrlie Evers, who later became the national chairwoman of the NAACP, refused to give up, however, pressing authorities to re-open the case. In 1989, documents came to light showing that jurors had been illegally screened. Prosecutor Bobby DeLaughter worked with Myrlie Evers to force another prosecution of Beckwith....

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. 4, 1826: The Last of the Mohicans is Published

On this day in 1826, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper is published. One of the earliest distinctive American novels, the book is the second of the five-novel series called the “Leather-stocking Tales.” Cooper was born in 1789 in New Jersey and moved the following year to the frontier in upstate New York, where his father founded frontier-town Coopersville. Cooper attended Yale but joined the Navy after he was expelled for a prank. When Cooper was about 20, his father died, and he became financially independent. Having drifted for a decade, Cooper began writing a novel after his wife challenged him to write something better than he was reading at the moment. His first novel, Precaution, modeled on Jane Austen, was not successful, but his second, The Spy, influenced by the popular writings of Sir Walter Scott, became a bestseller, making Cooper the first major American...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 3, 1950 – Klaus Fuchs Arrested for Passing Atomic Bomb Information to Soviets

Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British scientist who helped developed the atomic bomb, is arrested in Great Britain for passing top-secret information about the bomb to the Soviet Union. The arrest of Fuchs led authorities to several other individuals involved in a spy ring, culminating with the arrest of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and their subsequent execution. Fuchs and his family fled Germany in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution and came to Great Britain, where Fuchs earned his doctorate in physics. During World War II, British authorities were aware of the leftist leanings of both Fuchs and his father. However, Fuchs was eventually invited to participate in the British program to develop an atomic bomb (the project named “Tube Alloys”) because of his expertise. At some point after the project began, Soviet agents contacted Fuchs and he began to pass information about British progress to them. Late in 1943, Fuchs...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb 2,1979 – Sid Vicious Dies of a Drug Overdose in New York City

To the New York City Police Department and Medical Examiner’s Office, he was John Simon Ritchie, a 22-year-old Englishman under indictment for murder but now dead of a heroin overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment. To the rest of the world, he was Sid Vicious, former bassist for the notorious Sex Pistols and the living embodiment of everything punk rock stood for and against. His death, which likely came as a surprise to very few, came on this day in 1979. Sid Vicious was the last member to join the Sex Pistols, taking over for fired bassist Glen Matlock in early 1977. What he famously did not bring to the table was musical ability. Vicious faked his way through early gigs with the band, reportedly with his amplifier occasionally unplugged on stage by his own band mates. What he didn’t have to fake was the attitude. Sid Vicious was...

Read More...


On This Day, Feb. I, 1964: Prelude to the Gulf of Tonkin

U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces initiate Operation Plan (Oplan) 34A, which calls for raids by South Vietnamese commandos, operating under American orders, against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations.  Although American forces were not directly involved in the actual raids, U.S. Navy ships were on station to conduct electronic surveillance and monitor North Vietnamese defense responses under another program called Operation De Soto. The Oplan 34A attacks played a major role in events that led to what became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese patrol boats, responding to an Oplan 34A attack by South Vietnamese gunboats against the North Vietnamese island of Hon Me, attacked the destroyer USS Maddox which was conducting a De Soto mission in the area. Two days after the first attack, there was another incident that still remains unclear. The Maddox, joined by destroyer USS C. Turner...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan, 31, 1917 – Germany Announces Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

1917 – Germany announced its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. As early as 1915, Admiral von Pohl had wanted neutral shipping in the so-called ‘war zone’ (the English Channel and the rest of the water around the United Kingdom that then included the whole of the Irish coastline) attacked. He believed that the sinking of a few neutral merchant ships at the start of a campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare would be enough to scare off most ships from trading with Britain. However, on this occasion Pohl was not listened to for two reasons. The first was that the U-boat fleet was simply not big enough to execute a successful campaign against the numerous merchant ships that sailed around the British coast as in February 1915, there were only 21 U-boats available in total. At times only 4 U-boats patrolled the British coastline as some were in for repairs...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 30, 1798 – First Brawl Breaks Out on House Floor

1798 – The first brawl in the U.S. House of Representatives took place. Congressmen Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold fought on the House floor. On the morning of February 15, 1798, pandemonium broke out on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Without warning, Federalist Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut strode across the chambers to where his colleague Matthew Lyon was sitting preoccupied with some correspondence. Cursing him as a “scoundrel,” Griswold pounded the Vermont Republican’s head and shoulders with a thick, hickory walking stick. Federalist Representative George Thacher of Massachusetts witnessed and later recalled the attack: “I was suddenly, and unsuspectedly interrupted by the sound of a violent blow I raised my head, & directly before me stood Mr. Griswald laying on blows with all his mightupon Mr. Lyon, who seemed to be in the act of rising out of his seat Lyon made an...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 29, 1886 – Karl Benz Patents First Gas-Powered Car

1886 – The first successful petrol-driven motorcar, built by Karl Benz, was patented. Benz’s lifelong hobby brought him to a bicycle repair shop in Mannheim owned by Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Eßlinger. In 1883, the three founded a new company producing industrial machines: Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, usually referred to as, Benz & Cie. Quickly growing to twenty-five employees, it soon began to produce static gas engines as well. The success of the company gave Benz the opportunity to indulge in his old passion of designing a horseless carriage. Based on his experience with, and fondness for, bicycles, he used similar technology when he created an automobile. It featured wire wheels (unlike carriages’ wooden ones) with a four-stroke engine of his own design between the rear wheels, with a very advanced coil ignition and evaporative cooling rather than a radiator. Power was transmitted by means of two roller...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 28, 1521 – Diet Of Worms Opens to Deal with Martin Luther

“The third kind consists of those books which I have written against private individuals, so-called; against those, that is, who have exerted themselves in defense of the Roman tyranny and to the overthrow of that piety which I have taught. I confess that I have been more harsh against them than befits my religious vows and my profession. For I do not make myself out to be any kind of saint, nor am I now contending about my conduct but about Christian doctrine. But it is not in my power to recant them, because that recantation would give that tyranny and blasphemy and occasion to lord it over those whom I defend and to rage against God’s people more violently than ever.” – Martin Luther 1521 – The Diet of Worms began. Diet of Worms opened with a papal brief requesting Charles V to do his duty, arrest Martin...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 27, 1926 – John Baird Demonstrates His New Invention – Television

1926 – John Logie Baird, a Scottish inventor, demonstrated a pictorial transmission machine called television. Baird is remembered as the inventor of mechanical television, radar and fiber optics. Successfully tested in a laboratory in late 1925 and unveiled with much fanfare in London in early 1926, mechanical television technology was quickly usurped by electronic television, the basis of modern video technology. Nonetheless, Baird’s achievements, including making the first trans-Atlantic television transmission, were singular and critical scientific accomplishments. Lonely, driven, tireless and often poor, the native Scot defined the pioneering spirit of scientific inquiry. During his long career, John Baird created a host of television technologies. Among them, phonovision, a forerunner of the video recorder (which largely still relies on mechanical scanning); noctovision, an infra-red spotting system for “seeing” in the dark; open-air television, a theater-projection system; stereoscopic color TV; and the first high-definition color TV. According to present-day TV...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 26, 1961 – John Kennedy Appoints First Woman as President’s Personal Physician

1961 – U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Janet G. Travell as the first woman to be the “personal physician to the President”. t was during her time studying arterial diseases at Beth Israel Hospital in New York as a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation fellow (1939-1941) that Dr. Travell became absorbed in the problems of skeletal muscle pain. Dr. Travell helped develop new anesthetic techniques for treating painful muscle spasm by employing local procaine injection and vapocoolant sprays such as ethyl chloride (used widely in sports medicine today.) It was this pioneering expertise that changed her life in more ways than one. In 1955 she was called upon by the orthopedic surgeon of then Senator John F. Kennedy, who had failed to recover from major back surgeries related to injuries he suffered in World War II. Dr. Travell was able to locate muscular sources for his chronic pain,...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 25, 1971 – Manson and Followers Convicted

In Los Angeles, California, cult leader Charles Manson is convicted, along with followers Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, and Patricia Krenwinkle, of the brutal 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others. In 1967, Manson, a lifetime criminal, was released from a federal penitentiary in Washington State and traveled to San Francisco, where he attracted a following among rebellious young women with troubled emotional lives. Manson established a cult based on his concept of “Helter Skelter”–an apocalyptic philosophy predicting that out of an imminent racial war in America would emerge five ruling angels: Manson, who would take on the role of Jesus Christ, and the four members of the Beatles. Manson convinced his followers that it would be necessary to murder celebrities in order to attract attention to the cult, and in 1969 they targeted Sharon Tate, a marginally successful actress who was married to Roman Polanski, a...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 24, 1956 – Emmett Till Murderers Make Magazine Confession

On January 24, 1956, Look magazine publishes the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, two white men from Mississippi who were acquitted in the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago. In the Look article, titled “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,” the men detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article. In August 1955, 14-year-old Till, whose nickname was Bobo, traveled to Mississippi to visit relatives and stay at the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright. On August 24, Till went into Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, to buy candy. At some point, he allegedly whistled at...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 23, 1941 – Lindbergh to Congress: Negotiate with Hitler

On this day in 1941, Charles A. Lindbergh, a national hero since his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Lend-Lease policy-and suggests that the United States negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler. Lindbergh was born in 1902 in Detroit. His father was a member of the House of Representatives. Lindbergh’s interest in aviation led him to flying school in Lincoln, Nebraska, and later brought him work running stunt-flying tours and as an airmail pilot. While regularly flying a route from St. Louis to Chicago, he decided to try to become the first pilot to fly alone nonstop from New York to Paris. He obtained the necessary financial backing from a group of businessmen, and on May 21, 1927, after a flight that lasted slightly over 33 hours, Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, in Paris. He won worldwide...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 22, 1973 – Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion by handing down their decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. Despite opponents’ characterization of the decision, it was not the first time that abortion became a legal procedure in the United States. In fact, for most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion as we know it today was not only not a criminal offense, it was also not considered immoral. In the 1700s and early 1800s, the word “abortion” referred only to the termination of a pregnancy after “quickening,” the time when the fetus first began to make noticeable movements. The induced ending of a pregnancy before this point did not even have a name–but not because it was uncommon. Women in the 1700s often took drugs to end their unwanted pregnancies. In 1827, though, Illinois passed a law that made the use of abortion drugs punishable by up to three years’...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 21, 1924 – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Dies

In Moscow, on the evening of January 21, 1924, shock and near-hysterical grief greets the news that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik movement that toppled the czarist regime in 1917 and head of the first government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), had died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Influenced early on by Karl Marx s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution. He laid out this...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 20, 1981 – Iran Hostage Crisis Ends –

Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s political and religious leader, took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in a unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 19, 1966: Indira Gandhi Elected

Indira Gandhi became the first female head of government after the death of Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.  She was a controversial figure in Indian politics.  She was the second longest serving Prime Minister in India’s history. Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917.  She was the daughter of Jawawarharlal  and Kamala Nehru, who had also served as Prime Minister.  She served as the Chief of staff of her father’s administration and was later offered the premiership to succeed her father to which she refused.  Choosing instead to become a cabinet minister in the government. She finally consented to become Prime Minister in 1966. Gandhi served from 1966  to 1977 and was elected again in 1980, she served until she was assassinated in 1984 reportedly by a Sikh member of her bodyguard. There have been recent claims that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain may have helped...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 18, 1803 – Jefferson Sets Stage for Lewis & Clark Expedition

1803 – Thomas Jefferson, in secret communication with Congress, sought authorization for the first official exploration by the U.S. government. Three months later, with the Louisiana Purchase in place, Congress officially funded what would become the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May 1804, from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast. The expedition consisted of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. Their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 17, 1961 – Ike Warns Nation of Rise of the ‘Militarty-Industrial Complex’

1961 – In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the rise of “the military-industrial complex.” On Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general, the man who led the allies on D-Day, made the remarks in his farewell speech from the White House. As NPR’s Tom Bowman tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, Eisenhower used the speech to warn about “the immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry.” Here’s an excerpt: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” Since...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 16, 1919 – 18th Amendment’s Ratification Leads to Prohibition

1919 – The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages, was ratified. It was later repealed by the 21st Amendment. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages that remained in place from 1920 to 1933. It was promoted by “dry” crusaders movement, led by rural Protestants and social Progressives in the Democratic and Republican parties, and was coordinated by the Anti-Saloon League, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition was mandated under the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Enabling legislation, known as the Volstead Act, set down the rules for enforcing the ban and defined the types of alcoholic beverages that were prohibited. For example, religious uses of wine were allowed. Private ownership and consumption of alcohol was not made illegal under federal law; however, in many...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 15, 1870 – The Donkey and the Democrats Join Hands

1870 – A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion” appeared in “Harper’s Weekly.” The cartoon used the donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party for the first time. The donkey was labeled “COPPERHEAD PAPERS” – copperheads were Northern Democrats and the lion was inscribed with “HON. E.M. STANTON” who was Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Lincoln was the first Republican president. Nast was born in Landau, Germany in 1840 and his parents moved the family to New York when he was six. He and his sister were enrolled in public school and Nast’s performance was dismal. He did not speak English and was in danger of failing. His neighbor gave him crayons, seconds from his own manufacturing effort, and Nast learned to draw beautifully. He was basically illiterate and remained so all his life. He was enrolled in art school at age 12 but was...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 14, 1943 – FDR Becomes First Sitting US President to Take to the Air

1943 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an airplane while in office, arriving in Morocco to join British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for a 10-day conference in Casablanca that mapped the course the allies would pursue in fighting World War II and that demanded the “unconditional surrender” of their enemies. In crossing the Atlantic in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper, Roosevelt became the first president to travel on official business by airplane. At the time, FDR was a frail 60 years old, with little more than two more years to live. He was persuaded to make the arduous 17,000-mile round trip by air because Nazi U-boats still remained on the prowl. The secret presidential flight took more than four days to allow for refueling and rest stops. Although transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated C-143, the huge...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 13, 1943 – Henry Ford Patents ‘The Soybean Car’

1942 – Henry Ford patented the plastic automobile referred to as the “Soybean Car.” The car was 30% lighter than the average car. The Soybean car, more recently referred to as the Hemp body car, was a car build with agricultural plastic. Although the formula used to create the plasticized panels has been lost, it is conjectured that the first iteration of the body was made partially from soybeans and Hemp. The body was lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than a normal metal body. It was made by Henry Ford’s auto company in Dearborn, Michigan, through the work of scientist/botanist George Washington Carver and was introduced to public view on August 13, 1941. Because of World War II all US automobile production was curtailed considerably, and the plastic car experiment basically came to a halt. By the end of the war the plastic car idea went into oblivion. According...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 12, 1966 – LBJ Says We’re Staying in Vietnam

1966 – President Lyndon Johnson said in his State of the Union address that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there was ended. “How many times–in my lifetime and in yours–have the American people gathered, as they do now, to hear their President tell them of conflict and tell them of danger? Each time they have answered. They have answered with all the effort that the security and the freedom of this Nation required. And they do again tonight in Vietnam. Not too many years ago Vietnam was a peaceful, if troubled, land. In the North was an independent Communist government. In the South, a people struggled to build a nation, with the friendly help of the United States. There were some in South Vietnam who wished to force Communist rule on their own people. But their progress was slight. Their hope of success...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 11, 1927 – Charlie Chaplin’s Assets Frozen

On January 11, 1927, Charlie Chaplin’s $16 million estate is frozen by court receivers after his second wife, Lita Grey Chaplin, sues for divorce. Lita was a 16-year-old hopeful actress when the 35-year-old Chaplin married her in 1924. The bitter and prolonged divorce ended a three-year marriage with a $1 million settlement. Chaplin, one of the most financially successful stars of early Hollywood, was introduced to the stage when he was five. The son of London music hall entertainers, young Chaplin was watching a show starring his mother when her voice cracked. He was quickly shuffled onto the stage to finish the act. Chaplin’s father died when Chaplin was a toddler, and when his mother had a nervous breakdown Chaplin and his older half-brother, Sydney, roamed London, where they danced on the streets and collected pennies in a hat. They eventually went to an orphanage and joined the Eight...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 10, 2000 – AOL-Time Warner Formed

On this day in 2000, in one of the biggest media mergers in history, America Online Inc. announces plans to acquire Time Warner Inc. for some $182 billion in stock and debt. The result was a $350 billion mega-corporation, AOL Time Warner, which held dominant positions in every type of media, including music, publishing, news, entertainment, cable and the Internet. The AOL Time Warner merger came at the height of the so-called “Internet bubble,” when dot-com businesses were on a meteoric rise and their future seemed limitless. The idea was to combine Time Warner’s impressive book, magazine, television and movie production capabilities with AOL’s 30 million Internet subscribers to form the ultimate media empire. Under the terms of the merger, which was cleared by the Federal Trade Commission in December 2000 and formally completed in January 2001, AOL shareholders owned 55 percent of the new company while Time Warner...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 9, 1976 – Stallone Starts Filming Rocky

The classic rags-to-riches story got a macho spin in the Oscar-winning Rocky, which was written by its star, Sylvester Stallone, and began filming on this day in 1976. Stallone had his own rags-to-riches tale: Born in the gritty Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, he was a juvenile delinquent who was kicked out of a number of schools before he turned 15. After attending high school in Philadelphia and studying drama at the University of Miami, Stallone moved back to New York and later to Los Angeles, with dreams of becoming an actor. When the idea for Rocky came to him, Stallone was living in a seedy apartment in Hollywood with his wife and dog; he began writing scripts so that he would have better roles to play. According to a profile in the New York Times, published November 28, 1976, he wrote the entire Rocky script in...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 8, 1916 – Allies Retreat From Gallipoli

On January 8, 1916, Allied forces stage a full retreat from the shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, ending a disastrous invasion of the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli Campaign resulted in 250,000 Allied casualties and greatly discredited Allied military command. Roughly an equal number of Turks were killed or wounded. In early 1915, the British government resolved to ease Turkish pressure on the Russians in the Caucasus front by seizing control of the Dardanelles channel, the Gallipoli Peninsula, and then Istanbul. From there, pressure could be brought on Austria-Hungary, forcing the Central Powers to divert troops from the western front. The first lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, strongly supported the plan, and in February 1915 French and British ships began bombarding the Turkish forts guarding the Dardanelles. Bad weather interrupted the operation, and on March 18, six English and four French warships moved into the Dardanelles. The...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 7, 1999 – Clinton Impeachment Trial Begins

On January 7, 1999, the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, formally charged with lying under oath and obstructing justice, begins in the Senate. As instructed in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was sworn in to preside, and the senators were sworn in as jurors. Congress had only attempted to remove a president on one other occasion: the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, who incurred the Republican Party’s wrath after he proposed a conservative Reconstruction plan. In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old unpaid intern. Over a year and a half, the president and Lewinsky had nearly a dozen sexual encounters in the White House. In April 1996, Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon. That summer, she first confided in Pentagon co-worker Linda Tripp about her sexual relationship with the president. In 1997, with the...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 6, 1994 – Skater Nancy Kerrigan Attacked

Olympic hopeful Nancy Kerrigan is attacked at a Detroit ice rink following a practice session two days before the Olympic trials. A man hit Kerrigan with a club on the back of her knee, causing the figure skater to cry out in pain and bewilderment. When the full story emerged a week later, the nation became caught up in a real-life soap opera. One of Kerrigan’s chief rivals for a place on the U.S. Figure Skating Team was Tonya Harding. In mid-December 1993, Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, approached Shawn Eckardt about somehow eliminating Kerrigan from the competition. Eckardt set up a meeting with Derrick Smith and Shane Stant, who agreed to injure Kerrigan for a fee. On December 28, Stant went to Massachusetts, where Kerrigan was practicing. However, he couldn’t carry out the attack so he followed her to Detroit, where Smith met him. After hitting Kerrigan, Stant fled...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan 5, 1976 – Pol Pot Renames Cambodia

On this day in 1976, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot announces a new constitution changing the name of Cambodia to Kampuchea and legalizing its Communist government. During the next three years his brutal regime sent the nation back to the Middle Ages and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1 to 2 million Cambodians. Pol Pot, who was born Saloth Sar in 1925 to a relatively well-off Cambodian family, became involved in the Communist movement as a young man studying in Paris. After he returned home to Cambodia, which gained its independence from France in 1954, he rose through the ranks of his homeland’s small, underground Communist Party. Influenced by China’s Mao Zedong, by the mid-1960s, Pol Pot, also known as Brother Number One, was heading up Cambodia’s Communist movement and living in a remote part of the country with a band of supporters. Cambodia’s ruler, Prince Norodom...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 4, 1965 – LBJ Reveals Vision for ‘The Great Society’

1965 – In his State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the building of the “Great Society.” The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964-65. The main goal was the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. President Johnson first used the term “Great Society” during a speech at Ohio University, then unveiled the program in greater detail at an appearance at University of Michigan. New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation were launched during this period. The program and its initiatives were subsequently promoted by him and fellow Democrats in Congress in the 1960s and years following. The Great Society in scope and sweep resembled the New Deal domestic agenda of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some Great Society proposals were stalled initiatives from John F. Kennedy‘s New Frontier. Johnson’s...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 3, 1521 – Martin Luther Excommunicated for Heresy

1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther for heresy. Ordinarily, those condemned as heretics were apprehended by an authority of the secular government and put to death by burning. In Luther’s case, however, a complex set of factors made such punishment impossible. The new German king (and Holy Roman emperor), Charles V, had agreed as a condition of his election that no German would be convicted without a proper hearing; many, including Luther himself, were convinced that Luther had not been granted this right. Others noted various formal deficiencies in Exsurge Domine, including the fact that it did not correctly quote Luther and that one of the sentences it condemned was actually written by another author. Still others thought that Luther’s call for reform deserved a more serious hearing. A proposal was therefore circulated that Luther should be given a formal hearing when the imperial Diet convened in...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 2, 1960 – John F. Kennedy Throws His Hat in the Ring

1960 – Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy captured the Democratic nomination despite his youth, a seeming lack of experience in foreign affairs, and his Catholic faith. On May 10, he won a solid victory in the Democratic primary in overwhelmingly Protestant West Virginia. His success there launched him toward a first ballot victory at the national convention in Los Angeles — although he did not reach the 761 votes required for the nomination until the final state in the roll call, Wyoming. After choosing Texas Senator Lyndon Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy told the convention delegates that he would get the nation moving again. He declared that the United States would have the will and the strength to resist communism around the world. On November 8, 1960, . Kennedy was elected president in one of the closest elections...

Read More...


On This Day, Jan. 1, 1892 – Ellis Island Starts Processing Immigrants

1892 – Ellis Island Immigrant Station formally opened in New York. In the 35 years before Ellis Island opened, over eight million immigrants arriving in New York had been processed by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan, just across the bay. The federal government assumed control of immigration on April 18, 1890, and Congress appropriated $75,000 to construct America’s first Federal immigration station on Ellis Island. Artesian wells were dug, and landfill was hauled in from incoming ships’ ballast and from construction of New York City’s subway tunnels, which doubled the size of Ellis Island to over six acres. While the building was under construction, the Barge Office nearby at the Battery was used for immigrant processing. The first federal immigrant inspection station was an enormous three-story-tall structure, with outbuildings, built of Georgia pine, containing all of the amenities that were thought to be...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison Demonstrates His Light Bulb

1879 – Thomas Edison gave his first public demonstration of incandescent lighting to an audience in Menlo Park, NJ. Edison’s serious incandescent light bulb research began in 1878, filing his first patent later that year…”Improvement In Electric Lights” in October 1878. His experiments involved the fabrication and testing of many different metal filaments, including platinum. Platinum was very difficult to work with, and prone to being weakened by heating and oxygen attack. In addition, platinum was expensive, and too low in resistance; which would require heavy copper conductors in Edison’s electric distribution system he was designing to supply commercial installations of his bulbs. This system would later become the model for our modern electric utility power distribution system of today. Edison then resorted to a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. One year later in October 1879, Edison successfully tested a filament that burned for 13.5 hours. Continuing to improve his design,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 30, 1980 – NBC Cancels ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’

1980 – “The Wonderful World of Disney” was cancelled by NBC after more than 25 years on the TV. It was the longest-running series in prime-time television history. Originally hosted by Walt Disney himself, the series presented animated cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. For many years, the show also featured one-hour edits of such then-recent Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, and in other cases, telecasts of complete Disney films split into two or more one-hour episodes.Occasionally, a more educational segment, such as The Story of the Animated Drawing, would be featured. The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the three-episode series (not shown in consecutive weeks) about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, “The Ballad of Davy...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Killed on Orders from Henry II

1170 – St. Thomas à Becket, the 40th archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting on Henry II’s orders. In 1162, Henry II, king of England, appointed Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the most important religious position in England. No-one was surprised by Henry’s choice as both he and Thomas were very good friends. They enjoyed hunting, playing jokes and socialising together. Becket was known to be a lover of wine and a good horse rider. Henry II loved to ride as well but his personality was troubled by his fearsome temper. He tried to keep his temper under control by working very hard as it distracted him from things that might sparked off his temper. Henry II also controlled a lot of France at this time. William the Conqueror had been his great-grandfather and he had inherited his French...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 28, 1972 – Hanoi Announces Return to the Paris Peace Talks

After 11 days of round-the-clock bombing (with the exception of a 36-hour break for Christmas), North Vietnamese officials agree to return to the peace negotiations in Paris. The Linebacker II bombing was initiated on December 18 by President Richard Nixon when the North Vietnamese, who walked out of the peace negotiations in Paris, refused his ultimatum to return to the talks. During the course of the bombing, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. During the ensuing battle, the North Vietnamese launched their entire stock of more than 1,200 surface-to-air missiles against the U.S. planes. Fifteen B-52s and 11 other U.S. aircraft were lost, along with 93 flyers downed, killed, missing or captured. Hanoi claimed heavy damage and destruction of densely populated civilian areas in Hanoi, Haiphong, and their suburbs. The...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 27, 2004 – Peyton Manning Breaks Single-STouchdown Pass Record

On December 27, 2004, in a game against the San Diego Chargers, quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts finds wide receiver Brandon Stokely in the end zone for his 49th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the previous National Football League (NFL) single-season record held by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. Born in 1976, Manning is the son of the former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, who played for the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings during the 1970s and early 1980s. His younger brother, Eli, plays quarterback for the New York Giants. After a stellar college career at the University of Tennessee, Peyton Manning was selected by the Colts as the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft. From the beginning, Manning performed at a consistently high level, passing for at least 3,000 yards in every season and becoming the first player to...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 26, 1946 – Bugsy Siegel Opens Flamingo Hotel

On December 26, 1946, in Las Vegas, Nevada, mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opens The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a total cost of $6 million. The 40-acre facility wasn’t complete and Siegel was hoping to raise some revenue with the grand opening. Well-known singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined the entertainment, with music by Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat. Some of Siegel’s Hollywood friends, including actors George Raft, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts and George Jessel were in attendance. The grand opening, however, was a flop. Bad weather kept many other Hollywood guests from arriving. And because gamblers had no rooms at the hotel, they took their winnings and gambled elsewhere. The casino lost $300,000 in the first week of operation. Siegel and his New York “partners” had invested $1 million in a property already under construction by Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter as well as some...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 25, 1962 – To Kill a Mockingbird Debuts

On this day in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young Alabama girl named Scout Finch, played in the film by Mary Badham, who lives with her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) and their widowed attorney father Atticus (Peck). While Scout, Jem and their friend Dill (John Megna) become fascinated by the mysterious shut-in Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), Atticus goes to court to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Directed by Robert Mulligan (Love with the Proper Stranger, Inside Daisy Clover, Summer of ‘42, The Man in the Moon), To Kill a Mockingbird was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won three Oscars,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 24, 1865 – KKK Founded

In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population. The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence. Most prominent in counties where the races...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 23, 1993 – Hanks Stars in First Major Hollywood Movie About AIDS

On this day in 1993, Philadelphia, starring the actor Tom Hanks in the first major Hollywood movie to focus on the subject of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), opens in theaters. In the film, Hanks played Andrew Beckett, a gay attorney who is unjustly fired from his job because he suffers from AIDS. Denzel Washington co-starred as Joe Miller, a homophobic personal-injury lawyer who takes on Beckett’s case and comes to terms with his own misconceptions about gay people and the disease. Directed by Jonathan Demme (Something Wild, The Silence of the Lambs) and featuring Antonio Banderas as Beckett’s boyfriend, Jason Robards as his boss and Joanne Woodward as his mother, Philadelphia was nominated for five Academy Awards and collected Oscars for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Original Song (Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”). During his Academy Award acceptance speech, Hanks thanked his high school drama teacher and a...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 22, 1978 – John Wayne Gacy Confesses

On this day in 1978, John Wayne Gacy confesses to police to killing over two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home. In March 1980, Gacy was convicted of 33 sex-related murders, committed between 1972 and 1978, and given the death penalty. At the time, he was the worst serial killer in modern American history. George Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, overtook Gacy in November 2003, when he admitted to murdering 48 women in the Pacific Northwest. Gacy was born in Chicago on March 17, 1942. Outwardly, he appeared to have a relatively normal middle-class upbringing; however, by some accounts, Gacy had an abusive alcoholic father and also experienced health issues in his youth. In 1964, Gacy married and moved with his wife to Iowa, where he managed his father-in-law’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. The couple had two children. However, Gacy’s...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 21, 1620 – Pilgrims Land at Plymouth Rock

1620 – The “Mayflower“, and its passengers, pilgrims from England, landed at Plymouth Rock, MA. One of the greatest twists of fate in human history occurred on that epochal voyage. The Pilgrims were originally bound for Virginia to live north of Jamestown under the same charter granted to citizens of Jamestown. Fate charted a different course. Lost at sea, they happened upon a piece of land that would become known as Cape Cod. After surveying the land, they set up camp not too far from Plymouth Rock. They feared venturing further south because winter was fast approaching. The 102 travellers aboard the Mayflower landed upon the shores of Plymouth in 1620.  The Pilgrims had an important question to answer before they set ashore. Since they were not landing within the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they had no charter to govern them. Who would rule their society? In the...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 20, 2014 – NASA AMES Center Celebrates 75th Anniversary

2014 – NASA Ames Research Center marks its 75th Anniversary. Ames Research Center (ARC), commonly known as NASA Ames, is a major NASA research center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California’s Silicon Valley. Named after Joseph Sweetman Ames and founded on December 20, 1939, as the second National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) laboratory, ARC became part of NASA in 1958 as part of the turnover from the dissolution of NACA, having (at the last estimate) over US$3 billion in capital equipment, 2,300 research personnel and a US$860 million annual budget. Ames was founded to engage in wind-tunnel research on the aerodynamics of propeller-driven aircraft; however, its role has developed to encompass spaceflight and information technology. Ames plays a role in many of NASA missions in support of America’s space and aeronautics programs. It provides leadership in astrobiology; small satellites; robotic lunar exploration; the search for habitable planets; supercomputing; intelligent/adaptive...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 19, 1777 – Gerorge Washington Sets Up Camp at Valley Forge

1777 – General George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, PA, to camp for the winter. For his winter encampment, Washington selected Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. With its high ground and position near the river, Valley Forge was easily defensible, but still close enough to the city for Washington to maintain pressure on the British. Despite the defeats of the fall, the 12,000 men of the Continental Army were in good spirits when they marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Under the direction of the army’s engineers, the men began constructing over 2,000 log huts laid out along military streets. In addition, defensive trenches and five redoubts were built to protect the encampment. To facilitate re-supply of the army, a bridge was erected over the Schuylkill. These 100 men were in turn sent out...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 18, 1944 – Liberty Falls as High Court Upholds Japanese Internment

1944 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained. The relocation of Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II was one of the most flagrant violations of civil liberties in American history. Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. Traditional family structure was upended within the camp, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of the relocation order in Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. Early in 1945, Japanese-American citizens of undisputed loyalty were...

Read More...


On this Day, Dec. 17,1979 – Death of Black Insurance Exec by 4 White Police Sparks Miami Riots

1979 – Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally beaten after a police chase in Miami. The Miami race riots (also known as the Arthur McDuffie Riots) of May 1980 were the first major race riots after the end of the civil rights movement. The Miami Black community, long abused and neglected by civic leaders who, among other things, placed I-95 straight through the cultural center of their neighborhoods, was getting angrier by the day. Recently arrived Latin and Haitian immigrants were taking jobs and social benefits that had traditionally belonged to Blacks. Cuban refugees wielding money and power were beginning to take control of the city, and as such were awarding minority contracts and jobs to Cubans instead of African-Americans. This, combined with the continuous poverty and degradation of their neighborhoods, had Miami’s Black community ready to snap. And so it was in this volatile environment that...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 16, 1773 – Boston Patriots Dump the Tea

1773 – Nearly 350 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor off of British ships by Colonial patriots. During the 1760s Parliament passed a series of acts designed to reduce the British national debt and to finance the costs of keeping regular soldiers on the American frontier. The most notorious of these was the Stamp Act (1765), which placed a tax on almost every public piece of paper in the colonies, including newspapers, pamphlets, diplomas, licenses, packs of cards, almanacs, and dice. The colonists fiercely resisted these taxes, organizing public protests and intimidating tax collectors. The Stamp Act resistance was the most widespread and best organized inter–colonial protest before the tea crisis of the 1770s. In the face of such widespread opposition the British Parliament backed down. It repealed the Stamp Act and its companion taxes in 1766. The following year Parliament tried another means of raising money,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec. 15, 1890 – Sitting Bull Killed in Melee with Indian Police

1890 – American Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, SD, One of the most famous Native Americans of the 19th century, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake) was a fierce enemy of Anglo-Americans from a young age. Deeply devoted to the traditional ways, Sitting Bull believed that contact with non-Indians undermined the strength and identity of the Sioux and would lead to their ultimate decline. However, Sitting Bull’s tactics were generally more defensive than aggressive, especially as he grew older and became a Sioux leader. Fundamentally, Sitting Bull and those associated with his tribe wished only to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, but the Anglo settlers’ growing interest in the land and the resulting confinement of Indians to government-controlled reservations inevitably led to conflicts. Sitting Bull’s refusal to follow an 1875 order to bring his people to the Sioux...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 14, 1977 – Saturday Night Fever Gets its World Premiere and Launches a Musical Juggernaut

In a 2008 interview on BBC Radio 4, Robin Gibb confessed to making it through only the first 30 minutes of the world premiere, and to never having seen the rest of the picture in the decades that followed. Millions of Americans did, however, make it through the film that made a movie star out of 23-year-old John Travolta and propelled the already famous Mr. Gibb, along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, to a level of superstardom rarely achieved before or since. The film, of course, was Saturday Night Fever, a pop-cultural juggernaut that had its world premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on this day in 1977. Well-cast, well-acted and well-directed, Saturday Night Fever earned positive reviews from many critics, including the late Gene Siskel, who called it his favorite film ever. But whatever its other cinematic merits, even the film’s strongest proponents would agree...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 13, 2000 – Al Gore Concedes Presidential Election

Vice President Al Gore reluctantly concedes defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida, on this day in 2000. In a televised speech from his ceremonial office next to the White House, Gore said that while he was deeply disappointed and sharply disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict that ended his campaign, ”partisan rancor must now be put aside.” “I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” he said.  “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.” Gore had won the national popular vote by more than 500,000 votes, but narrowly lost Florida, giving the Electoral College to Bush 271 to 266. Gore said he had telephoned Bush to offer his...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 12, 1980 – 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. 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...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 11, 1936 – Edward VIII Abdicates

After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the evening of December 11, he gave a radio address in which he explained, “I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” On December 12, his younger brother, the duke of York, was proclaimed King George VI. Edward, born in 1894, was the eldest son of King George V, who became the British sovereign in 1910. Still unmarried as he approached his 40th birthday, he socialized with the fashionable London society of the day. By 1934,...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 10, 1967 – Otis Redding Dies in a Plane Crash

When he left his final recording session in Memphis, Otis Redding intended to return soon to the song he’d been working on—he still had to replace a whistled verse thrown in as a placeholder with additional lyrics that he’d yet to write. In the meantime, however, there was a television appearance to make in Cleveland, followed by a concert in Madison, Wisconsin. On its final approach to Madison on this day in 1967, however, the private plane carrying soul-music legend Otis Redding would crash into the frigid waters of a small lake three miles short of the runway, killing seven of the eight men aboard, including Redding. “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” would be released in its “unfinished” form several weeks later, with Redding’s whistled verse a seemingly indispensable part of the now-classic record. It would soon become history’s first posthumous #1 hit and the biggest pop...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 9, 1987 – Intifada Begins on Gaza Strip

In the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, the first riots of the Palestinian intifada, or “shaking off” in Arabic, begin one day after an Israeli truck crashed into a station wagon carrying Palestinian workers in the Jabalya refugee district of Gaza, killing four and wounding 10. Gaza Palestinians saw the incident as a deliberate act of retaliation against the killing of a Jew in Gaza several days before, and on December 9 they took to the streets in protest, burning tires and throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli police and troops. At Jabalya, an Israeli army patrol car fired on Palestinian attackers, killing a 17-year-old and wounding 16 others. The next day, crack Israeli paratroopers were sent into Gaza to quell the violence, and riots spread to the Israeli-occupied West Bank. December 9 marked the formal beginning of the intifada, but demonstrations, small-scale riots, and violence directed against Israelis had...

Read More...


On This Day, Dec 8, 1980 – John Lennon Murdered

John Lennon, a former member of the Beatles, the rock group that transformed popular music in the 1960s, is shot and killed by an obsessed fan in New York City. The 40-year-old artist was entering his luxury Manhattan apartment building when Mark David Chapman shot him four times at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. Lennon, bleeding profusely, was rushed to the hospital but died en route. Chapman had received an autograph from Lennon earlier in the day and voluntarily remained at the scene of the shooting until he was arrested by police. For a week, hundreds of bereaved fans kept a vigil outside the Dakota–Lennon’s apartment building–and demonstrations of mourning were held around the world. John Lennon was one half of the singing-songwriting team that made the Beatles the most popular musical group of the 20th century. The other band leader was Paul McCartney, but the rest of...

Read More...