Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. Now, “Secretariat” makes regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it’s two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).
The mountain-peak logo of Paramount Pictures is one of the most familiar Hollywood symbols. Paramount was founded on May 8th, 1914.
Explorer Hernando de Soto traveled through the mountains and prairies to the Mississippi River on this date in 1541. De Soto was on the east bank, in modern-day Tennessee. It took a month for him and his traveling group of 400 to cross over to what is now Arkansas.
It’s the birthday of one man who made people afraid to go near the water, especially the ocean. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” was born May 8th, 1940. Steven Spielberg’s film version of “Jaws” was the number-one movie of 1975. Benchley was born on the same day and year as singer Toni Tennille, who with husband Daryl Dragon (billed as the Captain and Tennille) had the number-one record of ’75, “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
September 20 in history:
Explorer Ferdinand Magellan left Spain on September 20th, 1519, on a voyage to reach the Spice Islands by sailing west to reach the Pacific Ocean. Magellan’s ships were the first ones to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic, and eventually, one ship, the Victoria, became the first to travel around the world to return to Spain.
Lewis and Clark were headed back from the Pacific Ocean toward the Mississippi when they reached a white settlement in Missouri on this date in 1806. It took them another three days to reach St. Louis, ending the exploration of the Louisiana Territory which lasted more than two years.
The famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King took place on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome, before a crowd of 30-thousand and a worldwide TV audience. King was the defending women’s champion at Wimbledon. Riggs won the men’s title at Wimbledon 34 years earlier. The female pro defeated the older male pro in three straight sets.
ABC’s Howard Cosell was one of the broadcasters for the Riggs-King match that night. Two years later, on September 20th, 1975, Cosell attempted to blaze a trail as a variety show host, when his new program called “Saturday Night Live” made its debut. The more famous NBC show of the same name premiered three weeks later.
July 2nd in history:
The first zeppelin flight in Germany happened on July 2nd, 1900.
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were attempting to fly around the world on July 2nd, 1937, when they were heard from for the last time.
On this date in 2002, adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to complete an around-the-world, nonstop solo flight in a balloon.
Europeans first arrived in Minnesota on July 2nd, 1679, led by Daniel Greysolon Du Luht – better known as “DuLuth.”
Daniel DuLuth reached the Mississippi River from Lake Superior by way of the St. Croix River. Another European native, Englishman Tyrone Guthrie, established a theater company near the Mississippi River in Minneapolis in 1963. Guthrie was born July 2nd, 1900.