Today in History: July 17

The Boeing 747-131 carried registration N93119 and it was 15 years old. In those 15 years, it completed 16,869 flights and was in the air 93,000 hours. Twenty years ago today, it landed uneventfully at JFK Airport from Athens, Greece. That was flight 16,869.

Later that same day, as the sun was setting, it took off for its 16,870th flight. It was TWA Flight 800 to Rome, Italy, and it exploded at about 15,000 feet altitude over the Atlantic Ocean just south of Smith Point on Long Island. Everyone on board was killed, 212 passengers and 18 crew.

A sanctuary and park, the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial, was built and dedicated next to Smith Point County Park in 2004. It is depicted at top.

* * * *
A military coup in Spain against the democratically elected, leftist, government stuttered to a start on this date 80 years ago. It was the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a war which saw the left and the right, socialist revolution and right-wing fascism, appear clearly defined. Many foreign volunteers joined the fight on the side of the leftists, the Republicans as they were called in Spain, in a losing cause.

* * * *
Georg Frideric Handel’s suite, The Water Music, was performed for the first time on this date in 1717—on the water. Musicians on a barge floated with the tide up the River Thames, while King George I and several of his closest friends floated nearby to listen to the music. The king was pleased, so pleased that contemporary reports say that he requested the musicians to repeat the performance three times on the return journey down the river.

The performance below is less dramatic, as it was recorded indoors.

* * * *
Billie Holiday died on this date in 1959. “Strange Fruit,” performed live:

Ty Cobb died 55 years ago today. John Coltrane died on this date in 1967. Katharine Graham died 15 years ago today. Mickey Spillane died 10 years ago today. Walter Cronkite died on this date in 2009. Elaine Stritch died two years ago today.

* * * *
Donald Sutherland is 81 today. Diahann Carroll is 81 today. Peter Schickele, AKA P.D.Q. Bach, is 81 today. (He is still performing. Next month, he and other musicians will present “Songs from Shakespeare,” Schickele’s settings of Shakespeare speeches to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, in Ulster County, New York, which lends the program its name: “Shakespeare on the Esopus.”) Spencer Davis is 77. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall is 69. Lucie Arnaz is 65. David Hasselhoff is 64. Dawn Upshaw is 56 today. Alex Winter is 51. Beth Littleford is 48.

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  1. Eileen O' · July 17, 2016

    Thank you for these glimpses of history, Mark. You must spend ages looking these things up – or have you one of those minds that retains information for ever? I wish I did 😦


  2. loisajay · July 17, 2016

    Goodness, we lost a host of good people on this day. Thanks, Mark.


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