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.”
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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.
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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:
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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.)
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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.
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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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January 21 in History

When Marie Smith Jones died on this date in 2008, the living history of a people and a language died, too. She was 89 and she was the last of the Eyak people, an indigenous group that lived along the Copper River in south-central Alaska.

Smith Jones (above) was also the last native speaker of Eyak, which was once the dominant language from Alaska down along the western coast of Canada, and the death of a language brought global attention to the fact that languages are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate. Since the start of the century, about one language per year goes extinct with the death of its final native speaker. (There are about 7000 living languages spoken around the world right now, and ethnologists estimate that more than 90% will be extinct by 2050.)
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January 20 in History

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”―Franklin D. Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, delivered on this date in 1937

The first Presidential Inauguration held on January 20 was Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural (seen at top), 80 years ago today.

The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, pushed back the date for the start of a new presidential term from March 4 to January 20 in recognition that the length of time needed to notify winners and losers and transport a new president-elect to Washington, DC, was much shorter than it had been. Roosevelt was inaugurated twice more on two subsequent January 20s.

There have been twenty swearings-in of U.S. Presidents on January 20; today’s will be the twenty-first.
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