July 9th in history:
On July 9th, 1850, Zachary Taylor became the second U.S. president to die in office. Taylor became sick after eating at a 4th of July celebration – and, to this day, some historians believe he was deliberately poisoned. His body was exhumed for testing in 1991, but the coroner did not find sufficient evidence of poisoning.
Another man who wanted to be president made a famous speech on this date in 1896. William Jennings Bryan delivered what was known as the “Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, opposing the gold standard. Following that oration, Bryan became the youngest presidential nominee in Democratic party history at age 36, and earned the nickname the “Boy Orator.”
Tom Hanks became a first-time Oscar nominee at age 32 for “Big,” in which he played a boy suddenly stuck in a man’s body. Hanks, born on July 9th, 1956, won back-to-back Oscars for “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.” He has also played astronaut Jim Lovell in “Apollo 13,” commanded G.I.s in the WWII drama “Saving Private Ryan,” and romanced Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail.”
“Big” was released in 1988, the same year that 11-year-old Fred Savage played a grown-up suddenly stuck in a boy’s body in “Vice Versa.” Savage, born on this day in 1976, also played Peter Falk’s grandson in “The Princess Bride” and starred as Kevin Arnold on the TV series “The Wonder Years.” As a grown-up, Savage has shifted from acting to directing.
July 8th in history:
We can’t prove it, but it’s possible that every item listed in “Triviazoids” is within six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The star of “Footloose” and dozens of other movies was born on July 8th, 1958.
Bacon had a role in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” And on July 8th, 1965, Ronald Biggs escaped from a British prison where he was serving time for his role in the “Great Train Robbery” of 1963. He stayed out of prison for more than 30 years before turning himself in.
Bacon played Jack Swigert, one of the three endangered astronauts in the film “Apollo 13.” The Apollo 13 flight of 1970 was supposed to be the third mission to land men on the moon. Pete Conrad of Apollo 12, the third man to walk on the moon, was another real-life astronaut portrayed in the movie. Conrad died on this date in 1999, at age 69.
In the movie “Frost/Nixon,” Kevin Bacon portrayed a Marine colonel. On July 8th, 1776, a colonel named John Nixon publicly read the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia for the first time since it was adopted.
Two governors who ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1968 were born on July 8th, one year apart. Michigan’s George Romney (born 1907) later served in Nixon’s cabinet, and was the father of future governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And Nelson Rockefeller of New York (1908) was chosen to succeed Gerald Ford as vice president in 1974, four months after Nixon resigned from the presidency.
July 7th in history:
On this date in 1958, President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act, making Alaska the 49th state – and the biggest state in size. Alaska was admitted officially the following January.
Construction of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) began on July 7th, 1930. At the time it was completed, the 700-foot high dam on the Colorado River was the largest concrete structure in the world.
Was Boulder Dam “the greatest thing since sliced bread”? Maybe not, but pre-sliced bread was considered a big thing when it was introduced on July 7th, 1928, by a bakery in Chillicothe, Missouri. That innovation was advertised as the “greatest forward step” in baking since wrapped bread.
July 6th in history:
One of the worst circus fires in U.S. history occurred on July 6th, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 160 people died and hundreds more were injured when the Ringling Brothers big top caught fire and collapsed within minutes. Two young people who survived the Hartford fire and later became famous were actor Charles Nelson Reilly and drummer Hal Blaine.
Among the many famous performers Blaine worked with on records was John Lennon. On this date in 1957, 16-year-old Lennon and his band the Quarrymen were about to perform at a church social in Liverpool, England when he was introduced to 15-year-old Paul McCartney. Only seven years later, Lennon and McCartney became movie stars when the first Beatles movie, “A Hard Day’s Night,” premiered in England on July 6th, 1964.
On the day that “A Hard Day’s Night” made its debut, future president George Walker Bush turned 18. His father, George Herbert Walker Bush, was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas that year. The older Bush lost that election, but he rose through Republican ranks to become vice president under Ronald Reagan, and then president himself. First Lady Nancy Reagan, born July 6th, 1921, was Ronald Reagan’s second wife, and he was the first divorced man to be elected president.
When England’s Henry VIII wanted to end his first marriage to wed Anne Boleyn, one of his chief opponents was Lord Chancellor Thomas More. For opposing the king, More eventually was convicted of treason, and was beheaded on July 6th, 1535.
July 4th in history:
The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. Two leaders of the independence movement, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, coincidentally died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.
Thomas Jefferson’s face would eventually be carved onto Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and unveiled in the fall of 1936. George Washington’s face was the first to be unveiled on the mountain, on Independence Day of 1934. That was the 10th birthday of actress Eva Marie Saint, who climbed near the Rushmore faces with Cary Grant in the movie “North by Northwest.” Saint won an Oscar for her role in “On the Waterfront”.
The U.S. military academy at West Point was founded on the 4th of July in 1802.
It was on this date in 1817 that construction of the Erie Canal began.
And on July 4th, 1862, English writer Charles Dodgson first told a story about a girl named Alice, to a girl named Alice (Liddell). Dodgson turned the story into a book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which was published July 4th, 1865, under the pen name “Lewis Carroll.”
July 3rd in history:
George Washington took command of the Continental Army of the colonies on July 3rd, 1775.
Four score and eight years later, the Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3rd, 1863, with the Army of the Potomac defeating Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Seventy-five years after the battle, President Franklin Roosevelt lit an eternal flame at the Gettysburg memorial in Pennsylvania.
George M. Cohan wrote about being “born on the Fourth of July” in the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” But official records show that he was born on July 3rd, 1878. And the star of the movie “Born on the Fourth of July,” Tom Cruise, was a July 3rd baby in 1962.