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.
February 5th in history:
Three veterans of “Saturday Night Live” share a February 5th birthday: Christopher Guest (born 1948), best known for directing and/or acting in mock documentaries including “This is Spinal Tap” and “Waiting for Guffman”; Tim Meadows (1961), whose most famous SNL character was “The Ladies’ Man”; and Chris Parnell (1967), alias Dr. Spaceman on “30 Rock.”
Parnell was born on the same day in ’67 that “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” debuted on CBS. The often-controversial variety show hosted by Tom and Dick Smothers was a launching pad for talent such as frequent SNL host Steve Martin and “Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner.
Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and director D.W. Griffith combined their talents to launch a film studio on this date in 1919…United Artists. United Artists had big hits with the Beatles’ first two movies, “Gilligan’s Island” and the James Bond franchise.
In the opening scene of the 007 movie “Goldfinger,” Bond battles a drug lord from Mexico. February 5th is the anniversary of the Mexican constitution, adopted in 1917.
A different milestone for Central America was the development of the Panama Canal. On February 5th, 1900, the United States and Great Britain signed a treaty to create the canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
February 4th in history:
The Electoral College met for the first time to choose a U.S. president on February 4th, 1789. Electors unanimously chose the man whose face is on the dollar bill, George Washington.
You can probably find the faces of many friends on the Facebook website, which was founded on this date in 2004. Mark Zuckerberg started the social web page while still a student at Harvard, and it was originally meant to be used only by other Harvard students.
You may not know her face, but Janet Waldo has a familiar voice in the cartoon world. February 4th is her birthday. Waldo’s most famous characters include Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop, but she also played Alice in an animated version of “Alice in Wonderland.”
It’s also the birthday for a famous “Alice”: rock star Alice Cooper, born Vincent Furnier on February 4th, 1948.
Men landed on the moon for the third time on February 3rd, 1971. America’s first man in space, Alan Shepard, landed on the lunar surface with Edgar Mitchell during the Apollo 14 mission.
Another famous flight ended tragically on February 3rd, 1959. Singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed when their plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, shortly after their last concert at the nearby Surf Ballroom.
Iowa made history on this date in 1870 by becoming the 28th state to approve the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making it law. That amendment allowed former slaves and other non-white citizens to vote.
February 2nd in history:
One of the busiest buildings in New York, the Grand Central Terminal, opened on this day in 1913.
Frank Sinatra had a hit single with the song “New York, New York” in 1980. That was 40 years after he got a big break by joining the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. His first performance with the Dorsey band was February 2, 1940.
Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols had a top-ten hit in Britain with an unusual cover version of Frank Sinatra’s hit “My Way.” Vicious (real name, John Ritchie) died in New York City on this day in 1979, at age 21, from an overdose of heroin supplied by his mother.
February 1st in history:
One of the songs most associated with the Civil War was the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which put new words to the tune “John Brown’s Body.” Julia Ward Howe’s lyrics for “Battle Hymn” first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine on February 1st, 1862.
Toward the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, on this date in 1865. The 2012 Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln mostly deals with President Lincoln’s fight to pass the amendment.
A different freedom — freedom of speech — was under dispute after the Super Bowl halftime show on February 1st, 2004. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Justin Timberlake tore part of Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
The Persian Gulf War ended on February 28th, 1991 – less than two months after U.S. troops began the invasion to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi control.
The Navy ship USS Princeton was the site of a deadly explosion on this date in 1844. President John Tyler and members of his cabinet were aboard the Princeton on the Potomac River when a cannon exploded during a demonstration. Tyler was not hurt, but the blast killed Secretary of State Abel Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy, among others.
Charles Durning, born February 28th, 1923, played a president, a U.S. Senator, a governor, and many other authority figures, as well as Santa Claus, during a long acting career. He may be best known for roles in The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon, and Tootsie. Durning also fought in World War II, and took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
It’s also the birthday of Gavin MacLeod (1931), who has played several military roles on-screen, in Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, and the TV series “McHale’s Navy.” MacLeod’s most famous TV characters are Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Capt. Merrill Stubing on “The Love Boat.”
Pork Chop Hill was a Korean War drama. The TV series “M*A*S*H” was a Korean War comedy which became more serious during its 11-year run on CBS. On February 28th, 1983, over 100 million people watched the movie-length finale of “M*A*S*H,” in which the war ended. “M*A*S*H” lasted longer than the combined total of the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Tyler Administration.