January 22 in History

Our Town, Thornton Wilder’s three-act drama of life in small-town America—and in the theater in which we are all seated—was performed for the first time on this date in 1938 at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama later that same year.

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When she died on this date 116 years ago, her full title was a mouthful: “Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India.”

Queen Victoria was 81 when she died and her reign of 63 years and 216 days was surpassed in 2015 by the current British queen. The Victorian Era in history, politics, literature, and the arts ended on this date in 1901 as well.

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John Lennon and Plastic Ono Band recorded “Power to the People” 46 years ago today. Intended to be an anthem, it indeed was a hit single in the summer of 1971.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that Lennon’s song appeared “ten years too late.” By the end of his life, Lennon was given to agree with that assessment. Perhaps it was too late and too early at the same time.

The single, which features Bobby Keys on saxophone:

 
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President Lyndon B. Johnson died on this date in 1973.

R. Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania’s state treasurer, committed suicide at a press conference 30 years ago today. He had been convicted of accepting a bribe in a state corruption trial and was about to be sentenced. The testimony used in winning his conviction was, it later turned out, the result of a witness committing perjury against Mr. Dwyer, a fact that can not reverse a suicide.

The incident was such a shock that many television viewers think to this day that they saw the moment live on television; they did not, even if they lived in Pennsylvania. It was a major story for Mr. Dwyer, but it was not a major national story. It became a major national story with his sad final actions, a major story that is still taught in broadcast journalism and media ethics classes in which students discuss how much of the world’s sadness a publication ought to show or can show. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, (the state capital, where Mr. Dwyer lived, worked, and died) WHTM-TV broadcast uncut video of the event twice that afternoon, which happened to have been a snow day: many school-age children were home in front of their television sets and saw the violent video.

(I was a college student at the time and in a few of those media ethics classes. At the time and to this day, I feel that most of us know that the world is sad or is capable of disappointing and/or horrifying us, and I think that shocks do not jolt us into a newfound respect for life’s many sadnesses. I have not watched and did not share with readers on social media the murder that took place in Ankara, Turkey, last year for much the same reason.)

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George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron, was born on this date in 1788. Sam Cooke was born on this date in 1931. Bill Bixby was born on this date in 1934. Michael Hutchence was born on this date in 1960.

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Senator Birch Bayh is 89 today. Piper Laurie is 85 today. Graham Kerr is 83. Sir John Hurt is 77 today. Steve Perry is 68. Jim Jarmusch is 64 today. Linda Blair is 58. DJ Jazzy Jeff is 52. Diane Lane is 52 today.

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One comment

  1. loisajay · January 22

    Graham Kerr….it is good to see his name again. He was so much fun to watch in the kitchen. Thanks, Mark.

    Like

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