Today in History: April 6

3:00 p.m. EST: Music legend Merle Haggard, whose 79th birthday is noted below, died today, his management company just announced. A song suggestion, “Mama Tried,” is below, and here is another suggestion: type his name in your iTunes and enjoy the stories.

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Today is the 86th birthday of the Hostess Twinkie, invented on April 6, 1930, by James Alexander Dewar.

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Unrelated to that, today is the birthday of plastic, at least in American patent history. An “Improved method of coating billiard-balls,” U.S. Patent No. 88634, was published on this date in 1869. Collodion, a form of celluloid—plastic—was being used by John Wesley Hyatt as a smooth outer layer for billiard balls, and the Albany Billiard Ball Co., of Albany, NY, was thus formed. (Photo at top.) It remained in business for over a century, into the 1980s, but plastic lives on in many other forms.

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Unrelated to that, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) was discovered/invented by Roy Plunkett on this date in 1938. It is better known by its brand name, Teflon.

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Unrelated to that, the Post-It Note was introduced by 3M to American consumers on this date in 1980.

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The Church of Christ was formally organized on this date in 1830 in Palmyra, NY. Its founder was Joseph Smith and the church underwent several name changes in the subsequent eight years: Church of the Latter Day Saints, the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church of God, the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1838, the name the Mormon tradition retains for its church.

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The United States entered World War I on this date 99 years ago.

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On this date in 1925, the first in-flight movie was shown to passengers traveling from London to Paris. It was “The Lost World,” an action film from two years earlier; thus the tradition of an out-of-date in-flight film was born on this date as well.

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Igor Stravinsky died 45 years ago today. “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky:

 
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Lowell Thomas was born on this date in 1892. John Betjeman was born on this date in 1906. Gerry Mulligan was born on this date in 1927. The late Phil Austin of The Firesign Theatre was born in 1941 on this date.

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James Watson is 88 today. André Previn is 87. Billy Dee Williams is 79 today. Merle Haggard is 79 today. “Mama Tried”:

 
Gheorghe Zamfir, pan-flute master, is 75. Barry Levinson is 74. Bert Blyleven is 65. Marilu Henner is 64. Dianne Brill is 58. Paul Rudd is 47. Zach Braff is 41.

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