Today in History: Star Wars Day

Today is Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

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Peter Minuit arrived in New Netherland on behalf of the Dutch West India Company 390 years ago today. He became Director of New Netherland (governor, essentially), and is famous for purchasing the rights to what is now the island of Manhattan from the Lenape peoples for what is believed to be 60 guilders (which would have been the equivalent of $1000 at the time, or around $10,000 now).

In 1846, an historian named John Romeyn Brodhead calculated that 60 guilders was worth about $23, which was incorrect but so poetic that the idea stuck and became a myth of early America: that Peter Minuit bought Manhattan for $23 in cheap trinkets from the Native Americans. The comic flip-side to this myth is the ironic speculation that the Canarsees were willing to accept any merchandise for the island as they did not control it, the Wappinger people did, and the Canarsees were content with keeping this fact to themselves.

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According to some sources, on this date in 1715, Jean Marius, a Paris merchant, finally introduced his invention: the umbrella. Humans have used umbrellas and parasols for thousands of years, but Marius knew the world needed one that could be closed when one came indoors, et voilà! re-opened outdoors in the rain.

He had been refining his “Marius-system” umbrella for five years under a royal privilege granted by King Louis XIV. This privilege meant that every umbrella made in France in those five years carried the Marius name, whether or not he manufactured it. But at the end of this five-year period, anyone could make and sell and market an umbrella. He needed to have something new. Finally, he introduced a successful “folding pocket parasol-umbrella,” which was made of silk. Why we do not call umbrellas “Marius sticks,” I do not know.

* * * *
It is not known who truly scored the one millionth run in Major League Baseball history, but in 1975, as baseball was approaching its official 100th birthday, research showed that at some point early in the 1975 season, the one millionth run was going to be scored. On this date in 1975, Bob Watson of the Houston Astros scored from second on a three-run home run and was announced as the historic run. He won $10,000 and one million Tootsie Rolls.

* * * *
Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on this date in 1979.

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Adam Yauch died four years ago today.

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Maynard Ferguson was born on this date in 1928. Audrey Hepburn was born in 1929 on this date. Keith Haring would be 58.

Roberta Peters is 86 today. Dick Dale is 79 today. “Misirlou,” with Dick Dale on lead guitar:

Amos Oz is 77. Robin Cook is 76. George Will is 75. John Force is 67. Graham Swift is 67 today. Pia Zadora is 63. Randy Travis is 57. Will Arnett is 46. Lance Bass is 37.

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  1. I figured yours would be the first reference I’d see to Star Wars today. Expectation surpassed, in your usual way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Good Morning | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  3. loisajay · May 4, 2016

    I had to chuckle at your opening line. Makes me think of that line in “Space Balls”–May the Schwartz be with you!


  4. Anton Wills-Eve · May 4, 2016

    Mark, I was fascinated to discover that both my sons (aged 46 and 25) knew that terrible joke on Star Wars very well. The eldest said he first heard it in 1983! 🙂 ciao Anton


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