Today in History
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January 26, 1826: Born, Julia Dent Grant. She was a rather plain girl who squinted and was a little cross-eyed. But she was friendly and sociable, and it's no wonder that her brother's friend, Ulysses S. Grant, fell in love with her. He proposed several times before she finally accepted. As First Lady, she was a happy and gracious hostess. When it was suggested that an operation could cure her crossed eyes, her husband told her to leave them alone -- he liked her that way.
It Happened on May 5th
January 25, 1890: Nellie Bly completes her journey around the world. Seeking to emulate Jules Vernes' fictional trip around the world in 80 days, reporter Nellie Bly (real name Elizabeth Jane Cochrane) made it in only 72. Other highlights of her investigative journalism career included a stint as foreign correspondenet in Mexico and an expose of a Women's Lunatic Asylum, to which she gained access by faking insanity.
January 23, 1919: Born, Ernie Kovacs. The American comedian, actor, and writer once described himself in these words: "I was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1919 to a Hungarian couple. I've been smoking cigars ever since." He had a tremendous influence on the development of both comedy and video effects. Here he is in 1960 with wife Edie Adams.
September 25, 1897: Born, William Faulkner. Now acclaimed as one of the most important writers of American Literature, Faulkner was relatively unknown when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Faulkner believed that each writer must find his own way: "Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him...
September 24, 1742: Faneuil Hall opens. When slave trader Peter Faneuil offered to donate a marketplace to the City of Boston, the townspeople weren't sure they even wanted it. The Town Council debated for days, and finally approved it at a vote of 367 to 360. That building burned to the ground in 1761, and was replaced -- this is what the new Faneuil Hall looked like in 1903.
September 23, 1759: Born, Marie Clotilde of France. The younger sister of Louis XVI, Marie escaped the ravages of the French Revolution through her marriage to Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia. In her youth she was mocked for her excess weight, but her husband gallantly said that he had merely been given "more to worship." She's shown here with her brother Louis and their pet goat.
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September 22, since 1978: Hobbit Day! Happy Birthday to Bilbo and Frodo, who shared a birthday, as you may remember. The American Tolkien Society first proclaimed September 22nd as Hobbit Day in 1978, and also observes the week which includes the date as Tolkien week.
September 21, 1849: Born, Maurice Barrymore. The patriarch of the Barrymore acting family was born Herbert Blythe, but took on the stage name of Barrymore in order to spare his father the shame of having a son in such a "dissolute" profession -- he had expected Herbert to go into law. Barrymore was the father of John, Lionel, and Ethel, and the great-grandfather of Drew Barrymore.
September 21, 1849: Born, Maurice Barrymore. The patriarch of the Barrymore acting family was born Herbert Blythe, but took on the stage name of Barrymore in order to spare his father the shame of having a son in such a "dissolute" profession -- he had expected Herbert to go into law. Barrymore was the father of John, Lionel, and Ethel, and the great-grandfather of Drew Barrymore. He's shown here in 1895.
September 20, 1486: Arthur Tudor born. The new prince was heralded as the Hope of England, and his coming was thought to be bringing a New Golden Age to England. When he died suddenly of the "sweating sickness" at the young age of 15, his younger brother Henry became heir to the throne -- and inherited his wife, Katherine of Aragon, as well.
September 18, 1837: Tiffany's opens. Now known throughout the world as the epitome source of luxury goods, Tiffany's was originally a "stationery and fancy goods emporium." It differened from other retail outlets of the time in that prices were clearly marked on the goods to prevent haggling, and in that it was a cash-only establishment.
September 15, 1440. Gilles de Rais arrested. The French nobleman was a handsome, distinguished gentleman, it was said, but he was also a spendthrift. In order to augment his dwindling coffers, he turned to alchemy. Although far too pious to sell his soul to the devil, he did consent to provide the blood of innocent children. It is believed that he sodomized, tortured, and murdered somewhere between 80 and 200 children -- and perhaps as many as 600.
It Happened on April 24th
April 24, 1815: Born, Anthony Trollope. One of the most successful and prolific authors of the Victorian era (and certainly one of my favorites), Trollope was a discliplined man when it came to writing. He wrote every day from 5:30 am to 8:30 am (before he started his Post Office job) and held himself to a quota of 250 words every 15 minutes. If he finished a novel before his 3 hours were up, he simply started a new one.
It Happened on April 15th
April 15, 1764 marked the death of Madame de Pompadour, chief mistress of Louis XV of France. She was only 42, and had been unable to service the king for many years, but had arranged for younger, lesser mistresses to satisfy him, and maintained her position of power and prestige until her death.
It Happened on April 13th
April 13, 1796: First elephant arrives in America. It was the property of Captain Jacob Crowninshield, who had purchased it in India for $ 450. He hoped to make some money -- and fame -- by exhibiting it. The fee for viewing the elephant was 25 cents and visitors were warned not to approach it carrying "papers of consequence", as the elephant had a bad habit of destroying them.
April 11, 1976: Apple I created by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. In order to finance production, Jobs sold his VW microbus for a few hundred dollars, and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator for $500. When released for sale in July, the unit cost $666.66, and consisted of just the board – you had to provide your own keyboard, television (monitor), and cassette recorder. This enterprising owner built their own hand-crafted wooden case.