March 24th in history:
On March 24th, 1900, the mayor of New York City broke ground for the city’s first subway line to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first New York subway would open four years later.
March 24th is the birthday of American businessman George Francis Train (1829). Appropriately, Train was one founder of the Union Pacific railroad. He also campaigned for president, and for “Dictator of the United States.” Train made a trip around the world in less than three months, and reportedly inspired Jules Verne to write “Around the World in 80 Days.” Verne died on this date in 1905, at age 77.
You don’t have to be a science fiction nerd to like Jules Verne’s works, or to like two actors with March 24th birthdays who are famous for playing nerds in the movies and on TV: Robert Carradine (born 1954), Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds, and Jim Parsons (1973), Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”
March 11th in history:
A three-day standoff in Washington, D.C. ended on March 11th, 1977, when a group of armed Hanafi Muslims released dozens of hostages who had been held at three buildings. Two people died during the siege, and future Washington Mayor Marion Barry was wounded by gunfire.
The Branch Davidian standoff at Waco, Texas had being going for two weeks when Janet Reno became the first female attorney general of the U.S. on this day in 1993. Reno was blamed by many for the fiery and deadly conclusion of the Waco incident, but she remained head of the Justice Department for almost eight years.
Justice Antonin Scalia, born March 11th, 1936, has served longer on the U.S. Supreme Court than any other current justice, as of 2013.
Author and attorney Erle Stanley Gardner played a judge in the final episode of the “Perry Mason” TV series in 1966…which is fitting, because Gardner created the character of Mason, a defense lawyer who never loses a case. Gardner was 80 years old when he died on March 11th, 1970.
March 6th in history:
The Alamo fell to Mexican forces on this day in 1836, after a 13-day siege over whether the land would be controlled by Mexico or settlers of Texas.
“The Defense of the Alamo” was a 1953 episode of the TV series “You Are There,” hosted by Walter Cronkite of CBS News. Cronkite later went on to anchor “The CBS Evening News” and live coverage of many manned space flights. He also hosted a Saturday morning revival of “You Are There” in the 1970s, which included a story about the Alamo. Cronkite’s last night on the “Evening News” was March 6th, 1981.
March 6th is the birthday of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper (1927), and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova (1937). It’s also the birthday of a guy who knows about the “Dark Side of the Moon” — Pink Floyd musician David Gilmour (1946).
March 4th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for the first of his four terms as president on March 4th, 1933. It was the last March inauguration. The swearing-in date changed to January 20th in 1937. FDR’S first inaugural address was the one in which he said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Fear of an unseen, menacing truck driver is what drives the plot of Steven Spielberg’s 1971 made-for-TV movie Duel. The real driver behind the wheel of the truck in Duel was stunt driver Carey Loftin, who also drove in famous chase scenes for Bullitt and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Loftin was 83 years old when he died on this date in 1997.
March 4th is the birthday of the AAA (American Automobile Association), founded in Chicago in 1902.
German auto maker Gottlieb Daimler unveiled his first automobile on this day in 1887. Daimler is credited as the inventor of the first four-wheel auto.
Popular hot-rod designer of the 1960′s, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, was born on March 4th, 1932.
March 3rd in history:
The Apollo 9 mission was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on this date in 1969. It was the first test flight for the lunar landing module, and its three-man crew consisted of Jim McDivitt, Rusty Schweikart, and David Scott.
Another “Mr. Scott” well known for fictional space travels, actor James Doohan of the “Star Trek” TV series was born on March 3rd of 1920.
Another historic video was shot on March 3rd, 1991, when a man in Los Angeles filmed a police beating from his window. The beating of black driver Rodney King by white policemen touched off racial tensions, which led to riots in L.A. the following year when a jury acquitted the police officers.
February 27th in history:
Historians believe a speech by Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1860 gave him a major boost toward the presidency. Lincoln impressed an audience with an address at the Cooper Union hall in New York City, raising his national profile.
If Lincoln had not been shot during his second term, he could have run for as many terms as he liked. There was nothing in the Constitution to stop him — until February 27th, 1951, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified. That amendment was passed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected president four times. It says a president can be elected to no more than two terms — or just one full term, if he or she took over for another president who had served less than half a term.
February 27th is the birthday of two men who have run for president: consumer advocate Ralph Nader (1934) and former Texas Governor John Connally (1917). Also, the birthday of a recent White House resident, Chelsea Clinton (1980).
February 26th in history:
On February 26th, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy. He soon returned to power in France before being defeated at Waterloo that same year.
Napoleon sold the Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803. Louisiana became the home of Dixieland music, and on this date in 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first jazz recording for the Victor Company.
Musician Fats Domino, a New Orleans native, was born on February 26th, 1928. It’s also the birthday of Minnesota Fats from the movie The Hustler, Jackie Gleason (born 1916). Gleason’s most popular character was Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden from “The Honeymooners.”
February 18th in history:
Actress Molly Ringwald was born February 18th, 1968. On that same day, a Chicago-area high school student named John Hughes had 18 candles on his birthday cake. Hughes became a popular movie director and featured Ringwald in three hit films, including “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.” Most of Hughes’ movies are set in and around Chicago.
The Chicago 7 were acquitted on this day in 1970. The seven anti-war protesters had been tried for conspiring to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
On February 18th, 1856, the Know-Nothing Party nominated its first and only presidential candidate, former president Millard Fillmore. He carried only the state of Maryland in the November election.
February 14th in history:
James K. Polk posed for photographer Mathew Brady on February 14th, 1849, less than a month before leaving the White House. It appears to be the first time that an incumbent U.S. president posed for a solo photograph. President Polk had been photographed earlier in his term, in a group shot with members of his cabinet.
Television cameras came to the White House on Valentine’s Day, 1962, for a prime-time tour of the mansion, hosted by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The tour was shown on all three major networks.
George Washington never slept in the White House, but George Washington Slept Here was the name of a popular movie starring comedian Jack Benny, born February 14th, 1894. Benny had a weekly show on radio, and then TV, for over 30 years, built around his character of a cheapskate who played the violin badly and always claimed to be 39 years old. Benny’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois named a school after him in the 1960s. The sports teams at Benny Middle School are nicknamed the 39ers.
Jack Benny was born in Chicago, not Waukegan. On his 35th birthday in 1929, seven men were shot to death in a Chicago garage, in what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the most famous gangster-related murders of the 1920s. The victims were associated with the “Bugs” Moran gang in Chicago. Rival gang leader Al Capone was blamed for the killings. In the 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon escape Chicago by posing as women after witnessing the Massacre.
February 6th in history:
Ronald Reagan served two terms in the Oval Office after successful careers as a radio announcer, an actor, and Governor of California. The 40th president was born in Tampico, Illinois, on this date in 1911.
The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect on February 6th, 1933. The amendment clarified the order of succession to the presidency, and moved the start of a presidential term from March 4th to January 20th.
Cardinal Achille Ratti succeeded to the position of pope on February 6th, 1922, taking the name Pius XI. It took 14 ballots for the College of Cardinals to elect Ratti.
James II succeeded his brother, Charles II, as king of England on this date in 1685.
And Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI, became Queen Elizabeth II of England on February 6th, 1952. That was the second birthday of the daughter of another “King”: singer Natalie Cole, whose father was Nat “King” Cole.