March 26th in history:
The first driving test in Great Britain was given on March 26th, 1934. Presumably, no points were taken off for driving on the left side of the road.
Another first in England occurred on March 26th, 1976, when Queen Elizabeth sent the first royal e-mail. (We assume it did not begin “Greetings, I am the Queen of England, and I have a large sum of money to deposit in your bank account …”)
Other distinguished women are celebrating birthdays on this day: the first female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (1940); the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor (1930); and Supremes lead singer Diana Ross (1944).
March 26th is also the birthday of the President of the United States and the Chief of Control…from the 2008 movie version of Get Smart. James Caan (born 1940) played the president, and Alan Arkin (1934) was the Chief. Caan and Arkin worked together more famously as Freebie and the Bean in 1974.
March 25th in history:
March 25th is the date when U.S. Customs agents seized more than 500 copies of the Allen Ginsberg poem “Howl” that were being imported from England. The poem had been declared obscene. Sources disagree on what year the seizure happened, 1955 or 1957.
Ginsberg was one of many celebrities who helped John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance.” The song was written during John and Yoko’s Bed-in for Peace, which began at the Amsterdam Hilton on this day in 1969.
March 25th is the birthday of two famous people with ties to John Lennon. Elton John (1947) recorded “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” with Lennon, and invited the ex-Beatle to perform on stage at a 1974 concert. It was Lennon’s last live performance. Howard Cosell (1918) once interviewed Lennon on “Monday Night Football,” and announced Lennon’s death in 1980 during a football broadcast.
One of Elton John’s early hit songs was “Rocket Man.” He shares a March 25th birthday with astronaut Jim Lovell (born 1928). Lovell is best remembered for commanding the Apollo 13 flight of 1970, bringing it back to Earth after a spacecraft explosion on the way to the moon. He was also aboard Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon.
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 23rd in history:
Two pioneers of speed were born on March 23rd: Roger Bannister (1925), the first man to run a four-minute mile, and driver Craig Breedlove (1937), who was the first man to break a number of land-speed records.
Thanks to inventor Elisha Otis, buildings could rise higher than before – once his safety elevator came into common usage. Otis installed his first passenger elevator in a New York City building on March 23rd, 1857.
Explorers Lewis and Clark went as far as they could go in the western U.S. when they reached the Pacific Ocean. On this date in 1806, they began their journey home from the west coast.
The U.S. had never put two men in space at the same time until March 23rd, 1965, when astronauts Gus Grissom and John Young orbited the Earth three times aboard Gemini 3. Young got into trouble with NASA when he sneaked a corned beef sandwich into the space capsule, and tried to eat it in zero gravity.
March 21st in history:
On March 21st, 1871, Otto von Bismarck became the first chancellor of the German empire, when Prussia unified with other states to form Germany. Bismarck had been the prime minister of Prussia before that.
During a ski-jumping contest in West Germany on this date in 1970, a Yugoslavian jumper named Vinko Bogataj wiped out at the end of the ramp and tumbled into the crowd. Bogotaj recovered, and became famous when his spill was used to illustrate “the agony of defeat” in the opening credits for “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”
Olympic athletes in America experienced the agony of not competing in the Moscow Summer Games, after President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would boycott the Games, to protest the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On March 21st, 1980, Carter met with U.S. Olympians, urging them to respect his declaration of a boycott.
As a result of the boycott, NBC cancelled its plans to cover the Moscow Olympics. Meanwhile, Americans had a different game to hold their attention in the summer of 1980…trying to guess “Who shot J.R.?” On the same day of Carter’s meeting with the athletes, the popular CBS series “Dallas” ended its season by showing J.R. Ewing (played by Larry Hagman) being shot and wounded by someone offscreen. When the shooter’s identity was revealed the following November, a record TV audience in the U.S. tuned in for the answer. Hagman was starring in a cable TV revival of “Dallas” when he died in 2012…and the writers killed off J.R. by shooting him, again.