Category: This Week In History

This Week in History: 11/9 – 11/22

Sunday, November 16: The Sound of Music opens on Broadway

On Nov.16, 1959, the original production of “The Sound of Music” opened on Broadway in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical is based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.” The musical was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein; sadly, however, Hammerstein died of cancer only nine months after the premier. The production tied for the Tony Award for Best Musical with Fiorello! It also won Best Scenic Design and Best Musical Direction, along with Mary Martin Maria winning Best Actress in a Musical, and Patricia Neway Mother Abbess winning Best Featured Actress. The original production closed on June 15, 1963 after 1,443 performances.

Monday, November 17: The Act of Supremacy is passed

The Parliament of England passed the Act of Supremacy on November 17, 1534, declaring King Henry VIII as the supreme leader of the Church of England. The act came out of Pope Clement VII’s refusal to grant Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon who could not beara son for Henry. In response, Henry broke England entirely away from Rome, establishing the Ecclesia Anglicana the Anglican Church of England, placing himself as the head. The Treasons Act, which stated that to disavow the Act of Supremacy was an act of treason, punishable by death, came soon after. Henry’s Catholic daughter, Queen Mary I, later repealed these acts in an attempt to realign England with Rome. But, yet again, the acts were reinstated by Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth I, when she took the throne. Elizabeth reinstated the monarchy-herself-as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, instituting the Oath of Supremacy, requiring all members of public office to declare allegiance to her as the head of the church. This Second Act of Supremacy permanently and officially established the Anglican Church of England. The legal position of the monarch as the head of the church is still stands in the modern day United Kingdom.

Tuesday, November 18: Calvin and Hobbes is launched

On Nov.18, 1985, Bill Watterson and Andrews McMeel Publishing first distributed possibly one of the greatest pieces of literature ever produced: the comic series, “Calvin and Hobbes.” The comic tells the humorous tale of Calvin, the ultimate adventurer, troublemaker, questioner and mischievous six-year-old, alongside his stuffed Tiger, Hobbes. The two are named after John Calvin, the French Reformation theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, the 17thcentury English political philosopher. One of the defining characteristics of the comic is that, to Calvin, Hobbes is a living, anthropomorphic tiger, whereas all the other characters see him as a stuffed toy. The comic was revolutionary in that it not only provided humor, but also called into question serious political, social, environmental, educational and philosophical issues. Since the beginning, people have loved “Calvin and Hobbes”; within a year of syndication, it was already being published in over 250 newspapers. The comic ended on Dec.31, 1995 after 3,150 strips were published.

Wednesday, November 19: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address

On Nov.19,1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in history: The Gettysburg Address. Delivered about four months after the Battle of Gettysburg, where the Union soldiers had trounced the Confederate soldiers, the speech was given at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Before Lincoln spoke, Edward Everett delivered what was supposed to be the Gettysburg Address. Known as the Gettysburg Oration, the two-hour, 13,607-word oration is rarely ever read. Lincoln then got up and delivered his speech in just over two minutes during which he stated the principles of human equality, the struggle for preservation of the Union and the birth of freedom in America. Although more than 150 years have passed since President Lincoln delivered the address, the words are still well known throughout American culture: “Four score and seven years ago…”

Thursday, November 20: Nuremburg Trials begin

The Nuremburg Trials were a set of military tribunals held to prosecute the leaders of Nazi Germany after World War II. They began on November 20,1945, in the city of Nuremburg, Germany. Several of Germany’s leaders, including Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels, were not tried as they had all committed suicide several months before the trials began. The judges consisted of two Soviets, two Brits, two Americans and two Frenchmen. The first set of trials entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and seven organizations. Only three men were acquitted. The trials have been criticized since the “crimes” these men had committed were not defined until after they were committed, and were invalid as a form of “victors’ justice,” where the victors write the rules, as they want them.

Friday, November 21: Mayflower Compact is signed

The Mayflower Compact was the very first governing document of the Plymouth Colony in the New World. The dissidents who had fled to the New World after facing religious prosecution by King James of England wrote it while aboard their ship, Mayflower. They travelled aboard the Mayflower, and signed the Compact aboard the ship on Nov.21, 1620. The date was Nov.11in the Julian Calendar, used by the men at that time; the Gregorian Calendar would place the date on Nov.21. The ship was set to sail for the Colony of Virginia, but strong storms forced them to anchor near what is now Massachusetts, and this is where they chose to establish their new lives. The Compact was based on a majoritarian democratic rule excluding women, who were not allowed to vote, which stated that whatever the majority ruled, went. The settlers named their new colony “New Plimoth” using the early English spelling, based on the port in England from which they had sailed.

Saturday, November 22: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated

At 12:30pm, Nov.22,1963, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper while travelling in a presidential motorcade through Dallas, Texas. The sniper was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, who was caught by police but never stood trial because, while being escorted to a car for transfer to the Dallas Police Headquarters, Oswald was fatally shot by a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. Ruby was immediately arrested, but maintained that he had killed Oswald out of distress over the death of the President. Many have not bought into this story over the years, and consider the President’s assassination as a possible conspiracy, a belief shared by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded in 1978 that the FBI’s investigation was seriously flawed. Right before the assassination, the First Lady of Texas, sitting next to Kennedy in the uncovered limousine, turned to him and said: “Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.” The President replied, “No, you certainly can’t.” Those were his final words.

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This Week in History: 11/9 – 11/15

Sunday, November 9th: Coup of 18 Brumaire

On the 18th of Brumaire, Year 8, under the French Republican calendar which was November 9th, 1799 under the Gregorian calendar, a coup occurred in France, bringing General Napoleon Bonaparte to power as First Consul of France, thus ending the French Revolution. In 1795, Bonaparte was only a poor artillery officer, but by 1796, thanks to military success and links to Parisian politicians, he was named the commander of the French army in Italy. Bonaparte continued to further his career by defeating the Piedmonts and the Austrians in the War of the First Coalition. Bonaparte did witness some failure during the Egyptian Campaign, but not enough to dull his luster. When Bonaparte arrived back in France in 1799, the war in Europe was going badly with the territories of the former Austrian Netherlands in revolt. On the 18th of Brumaire, Bonaparte stormed into the French legislature demanding immediate changes to the constitution. The council rejected him, but the president of the Council of 500 the lower house of the government, who was also Bonaparte’s brother, summoned troops and told them that the deputies had tried to assassinate Bonaparte. The soldiers removed those who opposed Bonaparte and the remaining deputies voted to abolish the Directory the current legislative body and establish a new three-man executive called The Consulate. Napoleon received the title of First Consul, essentially giving him absolute power. While there were two other consuls, Bonaparte’s power over them was established in the new Constitution. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power.

Monday, November 10th: United States Marine Corps is Founded

On November 10th, 1775, the United States Marine Corps was founded by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress, which raised two battalions of Marines as an infantry force designed to fight both at sea and on land. The Continental Marines, as they were called, were later disbanded in April 1783, along with the Continental Navy. The Marines, however, were resurrected in 1789, leading to their most famous operation of the time: the First Barbary War in 1801 against Barbary pirates. Later, in the War of 1821, Marine naval detachments participated in the great frigate duels that characterized the war, including the first and last battles of the war. In 1834, the Marine Corps became a part of the U.S. Department of the Navy, and today there are more than 190,000 active marines, with 40,000 in reserve.

Tuesday, November 11th: Veterans Day

November 11th is Veterans Day in the United States, the federal holiday honoring those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans Day is different than Memorial Day in that it celebrates the service of all veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for the men and women who died while serving. The holiday was originally established by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day in 1919 as a day to celebrate those who had died during World War I. During World War II, a veteran, Raymond Weeks, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans who had served in any U.S. war, not just those who had died in World War 1. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on May 26th, 1954, establishing Veterans Day in place of Armistice Day. Please, remember to take time on this day to remember those who have served to protect you and our great nation.

Wednesday, November 12th: Naval Battle of Guadalcanal Begins

Also known as the Third and Fourth Battles of Savo Island, this engagement occurred between November 12th and November 15th, 1942 during World War II. The battle consisted of several naval engagements between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States Navy. Before the battle, allied forces mainly from the U.S. had landed on the island of Guadalcanal, seized an airfield, and repelledseveral attempts by the Japanese to retake the airstrip. Finally, in November, the Japanese mobilized over 7,000 soldiers planning to convey them to Guadalcanal and retake the airstrip once and for all. The U.S. discovered the plan and launched a counterattack. The battle was devastating for both sides, with almost 2,000 men lost to each side; however, the battle was ultimately a victory for the U.S. in that they forced the Japanese to turn back and abandon their reinforcement plan. The airstrip was a strategic site for the United States to help its air campaign against the Japanese.

Thursday, November 13th: Brice’s Day Massacre

On November 13th, 1002 AD, King Ethelred the Unready ordered the killing of a large number of Danes in the Kingdom of England. The order was a response to fear that the king held that the Danes would eventually kill him and take his kingdom. The Danes had ravaged England with raids occurring every year for the previous five years. So the king ordered the death of all Danes living in England. It is unclear how many people died, but the limited data suggests a significant death toll. In response, King Sweyn, the Danish king, invaded England in 1013. Ethelred fled to Normandy and Sweyn took control of the throne. However, when Sweyn died in 1014, Ethelred returned and retook the throne. The massacre’s name refers to St. Brice, whose feast day is November 13th.

Friday, November 14st: Moby Dick is Published

On November 14th, 1851 Moby Dick by Herman Melville was published by Harper & Brothers in the United States. The novel narrates the quest of Captain Ahab to seek revenge on an albino sperm whale, Moby Dick, which previously destroyed Ahab’s ship and severed his leg at the knee. The novel was originally a commercial failure, falling out of print by 1891; however, in the 20th century, its popularity soared. The novel includes commentary on social class and status, diversity, the existence of good and evil and the existence of God. The novel had its title changed at the last minute in September 1851; originally it was to be called The Whale, but was published under its proper title Moby Dick on this day in history.

Saturday, November 15st: NBC News Radio Begins Broadcasting

Originally launched on November 15th, 1926, NBC News Radio is the radio division of NBC News. The network originally was called the NBC Red Network, and was launched alongside the NBC Blue Network, the two original radio networks of NBC. However, in 1943, NBC was forced to relinquish control of the Blue Network which later became the American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, and NBC changed the title of the Red Network to NBC News Radio. The program was launched by the Radio Corporation of America RCA, and featured a star-studded opening broadcast, including a four-hour performance by notable opera stars, Carl Schlagel, Will Rogers, and Mary Garden. Currently, the NBC Radio Network no longer exists. It was dissolved into other components of Westwood One, NBC’s parent company.

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This Week In History: 10/26 – 11/1

Sunday, October 26th: Doonesbury is first Published

On October 26th, 1970, Doonesbury was first published in 28 papers. Originally a comic strip for the Yale Daily News called “Bull Tales,” the comic was renamed after its principle character as it spread across the country. By G.B. Trudeau, the comic traces a complicated family story, along with true social commentary. Indeed, the comic has been labeled “too political” by several newspapers, but every time a newspaper has tried to drop the comic, there have been so many complaints that the newspapers have reversed their decisions. On May 5th, 1975, Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

Monday, October 27th: Federalist Papers are Published

The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the original eighty-five were published in The Independent Journal, the New York Packet, and the Daily Advisor, beginning on October 27th, 1787. Since these initial newspapers were all in New York, most of the papers being with the greeting: “To the People of the State of New York.” The papers were later published in a more permanent form in 1788 by J. & A. McLean publishing firm.

Tuesday, October 28th: Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony Premiers

On October 28st, 1893, Pyotr Tchaikovsky led the first performance of his 6th and final completed symphony in St. Petersburg. Tchaikovsky died 9 days after the premier, making this his last composition to premier in his lifetime. Consisting of an Adagio, Allegro Non Troppo, Allegro con Gracia, Allegro molto Vivace, and an Adagio Lamentoso for the finale, the piece was entitled in Russian “passionate” or “emotional.” Tchaikovsky did compose one more piece before he died, but it was not performed until after his death.

Wednesday, October 29th: International Red Cross is Founded

International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland, after a conference between thirteen different European states and kingdoms. The major decisions of the conference was the foundation of the organization, an agreement for neutrality and protection for wounded soldiers, the utilization of volunteer forces for relief assistance on the battlefield, and the introduction of the red cross seal as a distinctive protection symbol for medical personnel in the field.

Thursday, October 30th: Birth of Fyodor Dostoevsky

Born on October 30th in the old style of dates November 11th in the new style of dates, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a Russian novelist and writer. His works were exceedingly psychological, and were placed in the context of the troubled atmosphere of 19th-century Russia. His first novel was published in 1846, called Poor Folk, but his other great works include Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. In total, he wrote eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels, and many short essays.

Friday, October 31st: Halloween

Halloween or All Hallows Evening, or All Saints’ Eve, while mostly known for children gallivanting off through neighborhoods in search of candy, the holiday actually signifies many important time periods for different religions, including but not limited to the Triduum of Allhallowtide in the Western Christian Church, and Celtic harvest festivals on which the Christian holiday is based. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, November 1st: Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is First Exhibited

On November 1st, 1512 Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel was first exhibited. Michelangelo was originally reluctant to take the work, but eventually Pope Julius II was able to convince force the project to begin in 1508. The ceiling comprises 343 figures, and it is largely believed that Michelangelo read and reread the Old Testament while he went along painting, drawing inspiration from the text as he painted. The ceiling is one of the greatest artistic feats of mankind, showcasing some of the most incredible artistry in existence.

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This Week In History: 10/19 – 10/25

Sunday, October 19th: Pomp and Circumstance Premiers

On October 19th, 1901, the first movement of the Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches premiered in Liverpool. Composed by Sir Edward Elgar, this first movement, commonly known as “Pomp and Circumstance” has become the stereotypical music for high school and collegiate commencements. The first college commencement it was played for was Yale University’s graduating class of 1905.

Monday, October 20th: US Senate Ratifies the Louisiana Purchase

The US Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase on October 20th, 1803. The purchase entailed the US purchasing 828,000 square miles of land from France for, in today’s money, $236 million-one of the greatest bargains in history. Getting the senate to approve the purchase was huge because President Thomas Jefferson had initiated the whole plan without congressional oversight, which led to great political debates; the senate’s ratification removed any question about the validity of the purchase.

Tuesday, October 21st: Guggenheim Museum Opens in New York City

On October 21st, 1959 the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright opened its doors to large crowds for the very first time. The museum exhibits Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art. The building is a work of art in itself, although it received marked criticism from the beginning. In 2013, nearly 1.2 million people visited the museum, marking its importance both as a building and as an art museum.

Wednesday, October 22nd: Princeton University Receives a Royal Charter

On October 22nd, 1740, Princeton received its charter to conduct classes and grant degrees, making it the fourth oldest collegiate institution in the United States although there is some debate between Princeton and UPenn. Originally called the College of New Jersey, when the university moved to the town of Princeton, it adopted the name of the town as its own.

Thursday, October 23rd: Battle of Leyte Gulf

From the 23rd to the 26th of October 1944 the largest naval battle of World War II, and possibly the largest naval battle in history occurred. The battle occurred after the United States’ invasion of the islands of Leyte. In response, the Imperial Japanese navy mobilized nearly all of its remaining naval vessels, including 9 battleships and 14 heavy cruisers, to repel the invasion. The Japanese were repelled by the US and Australian Navy, who inflicted over 12,500 deaths and sank 3 battleships. After this battle, the Japanese fleets never appeared in such strength again.

Friday, October 24th: “Black Thursday” Stock Market Crash

On October 24th, 1929, also known as Black Thursday, the US stock market lost 11% at the opening bell of trading. Traders were able to stop the slide temporarily, but the market sank again on Monday, slipping 13% and another 12% on Tuesday. Thus began the Wall Street Crash of 1929, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.

Saturday, October 25th: Birth of Pablo Picasso

On October 25th, 1881 Pablo Ruiz y Picasso was born. One of the all-time great painters, sculptors, ceramists, among other artistic endeavors, he is credited with cofounding the Cubism movement and co-inventing the collage. He created many amazing works of art, including the Guernica, depicting the bombing of the city of Guernica Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso died on April 8th, 1973 while he and his wife Jacqueline were entertaining friends for dinner.

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This Week In History: 10/5 – 10/11

Sunday, October 5th: Monty Python’s Flying Circus Premiers

On October 5th, 1969, Monty Python’s Flying Circus premiered on BBC One. The series featured 45 episodes over its run, until it ended in 1974. The show was a comedy, but its members were highly educated, with two of them being Oxford University graduates, and three more having attended Cambridge University. Throughout its run, the show drew great acclaim and great criticism for its satiric descriptions of English society.

Monday, October 6th: Thomas Edison Shows Off First Motion Picture

Even though Thomas Edison is most remembered for the light bulb, he actually held about 1,300 international patents. One of his inventions, the Kinetophone, was used on October 6th, 1889 to premier the very first motion picture. It was a huge success! Later on, the Edison Company started its own production company, producing more than 1,700 films.

Tuesday, October 7th: Battle of Lepanto

On October 7th, 1571, the fleet of the Holy League decisively defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire off of Greece. This battle was a turning point in stopping the advance of the Ottomans into Europe. This was the first major naval battle that the Ottomans had lost since the 1400’s. It was a catastrophic blow, and, even though the Ottomans were able to replace the ships they lost, they could never replace the experienced sailors who had died.

Wednesday, October 8th: First Perfect Game in the History of the World Series

Don Larson, former pitcher for the New York Yankees, pitched the first perfect game, or no-hitter, in the history of the World Series on October 8th, 1956. This game is one out of twenty-three perfect games in the history of the MLB. It remained the only perfect game until 2010, when Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. Larson’s amazing game earned him the World Series MVP award and the Babe Ruth award.

Thursday, October 9th: Beginning of the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot

Sukkot begins at sundown on October 8th, and continues until sundown on October 15th. Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths, is a biblical Jewish holiday. During the holiday, Jewish families live in sukkahs, or booths, that they build themselves. The sukkah is meant to help the Jewish people remember the dwellings of the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for 40 years after the Exodus form Egypt.

Friday, October 10th: Fiji Becomes Independent From the United Kingdom

The Republic of Fiji became independent from the United Kingdom on October 10th, 1970. Fiji is comprised of an archipelago of more than 332 islands, only 110 of which are permanently inhabited. Europeans began settling permanently on the island during the 1800’s, with the British taking control. Then, in 1970, the British granted Fiji independence.

Saturday, October 11th:Saturday Night Live Premiers

On October 11th, 1975, the television show Saturday Night Live first premiered. SNL originated under the title NBC’s Saturday Night. Throughout its run into the present, SNL has won 36 Primetime Emmy Awards, and was ranked 10th in TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. It has received over 150 Emmy nominations, the most received by any one show in history.

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