October 21 in history:
On October 21st, 1520, Ferdinand Magellan and his crew discovered the strait at the tip of South America which would later bear his name. The strait was the connection which took them from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Another famous ocean explorer was remembered on this date in 1892, when the Columbian Exposition was dedicated in Chicago. The fair designed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World actually opened in May of 1893. New products and inventions introduced at the fair included the Ferris Wheel, Cream of Wheat cereal, and Juicy Fruit gum.
October 21st was the day in 1797 that the U.S.S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” was launched. The ship (pictured), docked in Boston, is still maintained as an active Navy vessel.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge began writing his epic poem about the sea, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in 1797. Coleridge was born October 21st, 1772.
October 20 in history:
A dramatic night in Washington on October 20th, 1973…
President Nixon wanted the attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned instead of carrying out the order. So did his deputy A.G., William Ruckelshaus. Cox was fired by the third man approached by Nixon, Solicitor General and future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The incident became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” and fueled efforts to impeach Nixon.
News of the political turmoil interrupted network TV schedules that night. “The Carol Burnett Show” was a popular Saturday night program in 1973. A special episode of the Burnett show was presented at the new Sydney Opera House in Australia in honor of the building’s grand opening, which took place the same date and year as the Washington “massacre.”
Another Saturday night TV hit in October 1973 was “M*A*S*H.” William Christopher, who played Father Mulcahy on the series, was born on October 20th, 1932.
October 19 in history:
Napoleon tried to conquer Russia in 1812, but the Russian Army would not surrender. The French leader and his army spent a month in Moscow, but could not get enough supplies to stay for the winter, so they retreated on October 19th, 1812.
Boxer Evander Holyfield became the undisputed world heavyweight champion in October 1990 by knocking out defending champ Buster Douglas. Holyfield was born on this date in 1962.
It’s also the birthday of actor John Lithgow (1945), known for films such as “The World According to Garp” and his TV role as a visitor from another world on “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
October 18 in history:
The tale of a big whale was introduced on this date in 1851, when Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” was published in England.
The U.S. made a big purchase from Russia on October 18th, 1867: Alaska. The Alaska territory was more than half a million acres, about twice as large as Texas. The acquisition arranged by Secretary of State William Seward was derided with nicknames like “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”
Nicknamed after something else big and cold, Chicago Bears rookie William “The Refrigerator” Perry became an overnight star during a Monday Night Football game against Green Bay in October 1985. The two head coaches in that contest both celebrated their birthdays that game week, on October 18th: Mike Ditka of the Bears (1939), and Forrest Gregg of the Packers (1933).
Both Gregg and Ditka were still active players in the NFL during the 1970 season, when “Monday Night Football” made its debut. Announcer Keith Jackson, who handled the play-by-play for the Monday night games that first season, was born on this date in 1928.
October 17 in history:
One of the world’s most famous golf tournaments, the British Open, was played for the first time on October 17th, 1860, at a course in Scotland. Contestants had to shoot 36 holes of golf in a single day.
Another world-famous championship, the World Series, was disrupted by an earthquake on this date in 1989. Sixty-three people died in the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco area. Most of those deaths occurred because of the collapse of a two-level viaduct on Interstate 880. As for the World Series, the quake struck 30 minutes before the scheduled start of Game 3 between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics at Candlestick Park. The series was postponed for 10 days because of the quake.
A 12-story metal globe of the world, called the Unisphere, symbolized the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, which closed on this date in ’65. The Unisphere and some other displays at the fair were preserved as local landmarks.
A large globe sits atop the Daily Planet newspaper building in the “Superman” comic books. Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of the Superman character, was born on this day in 1914…on the planet Earth, not Krypton. Two people who have played staff members of the Daily Planet in movies or TV shows were born on October 17th. Margot Kidder (1948) played Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve “Superman” films, and Michael McKean (1947), also known for “Laverne and Shirley” and “This is Spinal Tap,” appeared as Planet editor Perry White on the “Smallville” TV series.
October 16 in history:
“Antoinette, dainty queen, with her quaint guillotine…” That line from the musical “Damn Yankees” refers to France’s Marie Antoinette meeting her fate on this date in 1793. The queen was beheaded nine months after her husband, King Louis XVI.
The American colonies effectively cut themselves off from the King of England by winning the Revolutionary War. On October 16th, 1783, Army commander George Washington captured Yorktown, Virginia, in the final battle of the war.
The English once beheaded their own king, Charles I, in the 1600s and tried life without royalty for a few years. It didn’t stick, and the royal family returned during the Restoration. A popular novel about the Restoration, “Forever Amber,” was a best seller in the 1940s. “Amber” author Kathleen Winsor, born in 1919, shared an October 16th birthday with the actress who played the lead in the movie version of the novel, Linda Darnell (1923).
October 15 in history:
The submarine “H.L. Hunley,” the first sub to sink a ship, sank during a test run on this date in 1863. The man whose name was on the sub, Horace Hunley, was one of eight people aboard who died in the accident. The Hunley was brought back to the surface, but sank again a short time later. It stayed underwater until 2000.
The “Graf Zeppelin” airship completed its first flight across the Atlantic from Europe on October 15th, 1928, passing over several large American cities before landing in New Jersey.
The New York Municipal Airport was dedicated on this date in 1939. Years later, it was renamed for the man who was mayor of New York when it opened: Fiorello La Guardia.
A New York apartment on East 68th St. was the main setting for a TV comedy that premiered on October 15th, 1951, on CBS. Living in the apartment were a Cuban bandleader and his trouble-prone wife, played by real-life couple Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. “I Love Lucy” was one of the top-rated shows on TV during its original six-year run, and has been popular in reruns ever since.
Another television hit about a wacky pair, set in the 1950s, was “Laverne & Shirley.” Penny Marshall, who played Laverne De Fazio, was born on this day in 1943. After the TV series ended, Marshall became a movie director, making popular films including “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”