Today in History: Dec. 15

The Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, which most people simply call the Tappan Zee Bridge, opened on this date in 1955.

At 16,000 feet long, it is the longest bridge in New York State, and it spans the Hudson River’s second-widest point for reasons of bureaucratic disagreements.

As one can see in the photo at top, the bridge offers a dramatic swoop of a structure across the river; a long approach over the water carries a driver gradually to a classic suspension bridge in the center of the river and a similar length ramp brings one to the other side.

Built during a period of material shortages in the early 1950s, it was designed to last only fifty years, a moment that arrived more than a decade ago.

Its replacement is being built right now, right next to the Tappan Zee, at a cost of $4 billion, and it is scheduled to be opened to some westbound traffic by the end of next year. The new bridge has not yet been named, so it carries a name that is almost as long as the bridge: the “New NY Bridge to replace the Tappan Zee.” This week, the towers for the new suspension bridge were capped.

The Tappan Zee is scheduled to be taken down starting in 2017, or when lanes for people traveling in either direction are available on the new bridge. Until then, travelers in New York have the gift of a unique sight: two giant structures, one under construction, sitting astride the Hudson River.

* * * *
Venera 7, a Soviet spacecraft, landed on the planet Venus on this date in 1970. It is the first vehicle from Earth to land on another planet and it was the first to send back any data. It took no photos.

Like every subsequent craft that has yet landed on Venus, Venera lasted only a few minutes (less than a half-hour) on the surface before it was destroyed by the harsh conditions on that planet. It recorded and reported only two things: its location and the surface temperature, which was 475°C (887°F).

* * * *
The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” by Antonín Dvořák, received an “unofficial” premiere on this date in 1893, when Anton Seidl and the New York Philharmonic performed it in a “public rehearsal.” (The symphony received its official premiere the next night at the Music Hall, the building that was later renamed Carnegie Hall.)

Dvořák added the subtitle, “From the New World,” almost as an afterthought, and he later explained the title (if not the music) by writing that the title represented “impressions and greetings from the New World.”

The subtitle stuck, and from its premiere, listeners have heard America reflected in the Czech composer’s symphony. Below, Lorin Maazel conducts the New York Philharmonic in a performance of the New World Symphony:

* * * *
Glenn Miller died on this date in 1944. Walt Disney died 50 years ago today. Christopher Hitchens died five years ago today. “Remember the love bit”:

* * * *
Freeman Dyson is 93 today. His most recent article in the New York Review of Books was published in the October 13 edition. He discusses three books.

Edna O’Brien is 86. Tim Conway is 83. Nick Buoniconti is 76. Art Howe is 70. Don Johnson is 67. Julie Taymor is 64.

Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. loisajay · December 15, 2016

    Tim Conway….I crack up every time thinking of him and Carol Burnett in the skit where he was the boss and she was the (very inept) secretary, ‘Mrs Ha’Wiggins.’ I loved the way he (mis)pronounced her name. God bless those who keep us laughing. Thanks, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rogershipp · December 17, 2016

    Enjoyed the Symphony… I think that this will be played during our game time on the last day of our school year….. THANKS!


Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.