Today in History: May 26

The 15,000,000th and final Model T automobile was driven off the Ford Motor Company’s assembly line by Henry Ford and his son Edsel in Highland Park, Michigan, on this date in 1927 (photo above).

The company started manufacturing the vehicle on October 1, 1908, and it was still popular two decades later—Ford’s factories produced between 1.5 and 2.0 million Model T’s each year from 1922 through 1926, but the numbers had been declining. It was time to introduce the Model A to the nation’s consumers. The replacement did quite well, too.

* * * *
Kaspar Hauser appeared on the streets of Nuremberg, Germany, on this date in 1828. He appeared to be a teenager, he carried two letters on his person, and he gave little evidence of understanding anything said to him. Taken together, the letters told a fantastical tale: one letter stated that it was from Kaspar’s caretaker and the second claimed to be from the boy’s mother to the caretaker, but both letters were in the same handwriting, probably the boy’s. Was he a runaway?

The letters claimed that Kaspar had been raised from his birth in captivity, and that his first experience of the outdoors came when he was freed outside Nuremberg. Later, he claimed he had been raised in a darkened room and never saw or interacted with his captors, that he had never seen a human being until he was set free. (His complexion was described as “healthy” and “ruddy.”) Was he a pathological liar?

For the next few years, he was a minor celebrity in Bavaria but strange violent acts continued to befall him (probably self-inflicted to grab attention) until he died of stab wounds received in an altercation that no one witnessed. Like his life: seen but not witnessed.

* * * *
No one had seen or heard a performer like him. In the 1910s and ’20s, he was the highest paid entertainer in the world, and he was probably not paid enough: multiple Broadway shows, 75 hit records, sell-out crowds for every performance, hit movies, including a starring role in the first “talkie.” Audience members recount the same experience: they felt he was singing to (or at) them, personally, individually. Al Jolson was born on this date in 1886, or not on this date at all and several years earlier, but he always claimed May 26, 1886 as his birthday. (Sometimes a performer will need to be thought of as older to get a job and then in the twilight years require it to be known that he is in fact younger.)

“Blue Skies” from “The Jazz Singer”:

George Formby was born on this date in 1904. “When I’m Cleaning Windows”:

John Wayne was born on this date in 1907. Robert Morley was born on this date on 1908. Peter Cushing was born on this date in 1913. Miles Davis was born 90 years ago today. Levon Helm would be 76. Sally Ride would be 65.

* * * *
Brent Musburger is 77. Stevie Nicks is 68 today. Hank Williams Jr. is 67. Pam Grier is 67. Bobcat Goldthwait is 54 today. Lenny Kravitz is 52. Helena Bonham Carter is 50. Matt Stone is 45. Lauryn Hill is 41.

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  1. Anton Wills-Eve · May 26, 2016

    Fascinating theatrical/cinema stuff Mark. Re the Jazz Singer, it was the first talkie released in the States but not the world. Happy Days are Here Again was shown in trial movies in Britain in 1929 and the sound track was reasonably good. However, as with all things, the British just thought it quaint and did not put it on general national release nor make another for more than two years. I know all this because it starred my mother and aunt. Then you have a picture of George Formby. Mum taught him to play the banjelele when he was unknown and tone deaf. I’ve still got the one she used, then and on the stage, here with me in the study. Small world. 🙂 Cheers. Anton

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · May 27, 2016

      You have George Formby’s banjele?

      My exposure to Formby is through Peter Sellers, who did an impression on Parkinson in 1974 or so and that clip made its way to clips about Peter Sellers traded among fans of British comedy (i.e. my friends and me).

      I will be looking for “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

      One of the reasons for me to continue doing this column every day has been and remains your comments.


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