January 29 in History

“Men are not bad. Men are degraded largely by circumstances …. It is the duty of every man … to help them up and let them feel that there is some hope for them in life.”—Louis Brandeis

President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court of the United States on this date in 1916.

At the time, most presidential nominations were accepted and voted on by the United States Senate in an up-or-down vote, often on the same day that the president submitted the name; the nomination of Brandeis was so controversial that the Senate held public hearings about it.
Read More

January 28 in History

“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”—U.S. President Ronald Reagan

Despite warnings from flight engineers that cold weather and ice should have led to a delay in the launch, a decision was made by NASA executives to launch the Space Shuttle Challenger thirty one years ago today.

Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, Challenger broke apart after its right-side solid rocket booster (SRB) sprung a fuel leak (caused in part by the cold weather and ice) which melted a steel brace that held it in place, which allowed the SRB to swing wildly and slam into the large central fuel tank which was still mostly full of fuel.
Read More

January 27 in History

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”—Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on this date in 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. He composed more than six hundred works in his brief life.

At the top is a photograph from Carnegie Hall‘s website of Mozart’s manuscript score for his “Three duos for two wind instruments” (K. 487/1, 3, 6). At the top is his signature and a note: “I composed this while bowling.”
Read More

January 26 in History

Today is Australia Day, the day that great nation celebrates as its foundation day.

On this date in 1788, the First Fleet, eleven ships from Great Britain with more than 1000 convicts on board, arrived in Sydney Harbor and raised the British flag. The First Fleet was sent to establish a prison colony far, far from home.

When the United States won independence, one of the side effects was the American right to refuse British convicts. In 1787, ships with the recently convicted were dispatched to Australia, and on this date in 1788, the First Fleet arrived. Over time, many of the convicts were pardoned.
Read More

January 25 in History

Robert Burns was born on this date in 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. The poet only lived 37 years, but his works live on, recited by people who do not know the quotes are from the pen of the national poet of Scotland: “Auld Lang Syne,” “A Red, Red Rose” (“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose/That’s newly sprung in June;/O my Luve’s like the melodie/That’s sweetly play’d in tune”), “Tam o’Shanter.”

In 1801, a few years after his death, his friends came together to celebrate his life. The celebration of his life was held on his birthday, January 25, and every year since 1803, “Burns Suppers” or “Burns’ Nights” have grown in popularity. They are celebrated around the world.

Dinner is always a haggis, a savory meat pudding similar to (but superior to, I have been assured by those who know) scrapple or andouillette. After it is brought in, an attendee recites Burns’ “Address to a Haggis,” seen here after the jump:
Read More

January 24 in History

A candy store owner in Onawa, Iowa, Christian Nelson, was confronted one summer day in 1920 with a most challenging customer: a little boy who could not decide between an ice cream or a chocolate bar and could not afford both.

Nelson spent the next year in a (mostly enjoyable) search for a method by which he could coat ice cream with chocolate. In 1921, he started selling “I-Scream Bars,” and he applied for a patent for his invention. An Iowa confectioner named Russell Stover (he was a real person) agreed to mass-produce Nelson’s creation but under a name that Mrs. Russell Stover devised: “Eskimo Pie.”

On this date in 1922, Nelson was awarded Patent Number 1,404,539 for “the production of a commercially practical coated brick or block of ice cream or the like.” The Eskimo Pie is 95 today. (Not the original one. That one is long gone.)
Read More

January 23 in History

By October 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell (above) was 26 and had been studying medicine privately for a couple of years. She applied to medical schools and she was rejected by each one.

Hobart College (then called Geneva Medical College) in Geneva, New York, received her application and created its own standard to use in the decision to accept or deny her for matriculation: the administration put her cause up for a vote among the student body of 150 male students.

If even one student rejected her, against the votes of the 149 others, she would be rejected. The student body came through: the 150 voted unanimously to accept her as a fellow student, and on this date in 1849, Blackwell graduated with her class.

Blackwell was the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. She practiced medicine in America and in Europe in the 1850s and ’60s.
Read More

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.
Read More