January 31st in history:
Two Wisconsin towns called Kilbourntown and Juneautown merged on January 31st, 1846, after years of disputes. They were on opposite sides of a river, and Kilbourntown on the west side often attempted to isolate Juneautown to the east. When the two towns finally became a single city, they named the new community after the river between them: the Milwaukee River.
Former Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was the baseball commissioner who suspended outspoken player John Rocker on this date in 2000. Rocker, a star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, had angered many fans with an interview in Sports Illustrated where he made racist and anti-gay remarks, and said unflattering things about New York City. January 31st is the birthday of the first black ballplayer in the major leagues, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers (born 1919), and the first black player for the Chicago Cubs, Ernie Banks (1931).
And the 3M Company turned a slur against a nationality into a successful brand name when it started selling Scotch Tape on January 31st, 1930. The name “Scotch” came from a customer complaint that 3M put too little adhesive on the tape, in order to save money.
January 30th in history:
The British monarchy came to a temporary end on January 30th, 1649, when King Charles the First was beheaded by opponents of royalty. Oliver Cromwell led England as Lord Protector for several years afterward. When the monarchy was restored, after Cromwell’s death, royalists dug up his body and beheaded him in retaliation on January 30th, 1661.
On January 30th, 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the chancellor of Germany. Hitler came to power on the 51st birthday of the newly-elected U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was sworn in weeks later. FDR and Hitler would both die in the same month, April 1945, as the U.S. and its allies were about to defeat Nazi Germany in World War Two.
January 30th of 1933 also was the day that a new hero was introduced to radio listeners in America, when station WXYZ in Detroit broadcast the first episode of “The Lone Ranger.” And another famous masked hero celebrates a birthday on January 30th: actor Christian Bale (1974), who played Batman in the “Dark Knight” series of films that started in 2005 with Batman Begins.
January 29th in history:
In 1845, readers of the New York Evening Mirror got their first look at a new poem by Edgar Allan Poe, called “The Raven” — published in the January 29th edition. Because Poe lived for many years in Baltimore and is buried there, the Baltimore Ravens football team was named in honor of the poem.
Two halls of fame for sports heroes announced their first members on January 29th, in different years. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted its first class of 17 legends in 1963…27 years after the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its initial group of five honorees in 1936. Baltimore-born Babe Ruth tied for second place with Honus Wagner in that first baseball hall of fame election, behind long-time Detroit Tigers star Ty Cobb.
And January 29th is the birthday of the actor who often wore a Tigers baseball cap in his TV role as “Magnum, P.I.,” Detroit native Tom Selleck (1945).
January 28th in history:
On January 28th, 1959, Vince Lombardi was hired to coach the Green Bay Packers. Under Lombardi, the Packers won five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls. The championship trophy for the Super Bowl eventually was named after him.
In Super Bowl XXX, played on this date in 1996, the Dallas Cowboys became the first team to win three Lombardi Trophies in four years. Dallas defeated Pittsburgh, 27-17.
Super Bowl XXX received higher ratings than any other TV broadcast up until that time, except for the last episode of “M*A*S*H” in 1983. Alan Alda, who played Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce for 11 years on “M*A*S*H,” was born January 28th, 1936.
During his years as Hawkeye, Alan Alda also starred in a TV movie about Death Row prisoner Caryl Chessman. Other people associated with prison stories share a January 28th birthday with Alda. They include the real-life “Birdman of Alcatraz,” prisoner Robert Stroud (born 1890); actor John Banner, who played Sgt. Schultz on “Hogan’s Heroes” (1910); and director Frank Darabont (1959), who made the prison movies “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
January 27th in history:
The three astronauts who were scheduled to fly on the first Apollo mission died in a launchpad fire on January 27th, 1967, less than a month before the planned mission. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were unable to escape from the Apollo capsule after a flash fire broke out during an equipment test. A pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule was blamed for helping the fire spread quickly.
The fire happened the same day in 1967 that an Outer Space Treaty was signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Dozens of other countries have signed it since then. The treaty bans countries from putting weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit, and from using the moon for military purposes.
The Vietnam War officially ended on January 27th, 1973, when Vietnam and the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords. The treaties were signed one week into President Nixon’s second term, and five years after the Paris peace talks began.
The grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison has become a popular tourist attraction in Paris. Morrison’s career only lasted four years after the release of the first album by the Doors on January 27th, 1967.
The first Doors album featured the hit “Light My Fire.” On this date in 1984, singer Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire as a result of pyrotechnics used while he was filming a TV commercial for Pepsi.
January 26th in history:
On January 26th of 1962, the U.S. sent the Ranger 3 probe to the moon. The spacecraft missed the moon by several thousand miles and kept going.
On this date in 2006, Western Union stopped providing the service it became famous for: sending telegrams. The company officially got out of the communications business and shifted to financial services and money transfers. In 2005, the number of telegrams sent by Western Union was 1 percent of the number sent in 1929.
And President Bill Clinton sent an infamous message to Americans on January 26th of 1998. In front of TV cameras, Clinton insisted “I did not have sexual relations” with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Months later, Clinton admitted he DID have relations with Lewinsky, setting the stage for his impeachment on perjury charges.
January 25th in history:
King Henry VIII was married on January 25, 1533, secretly marrying his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry’s desire to end his first marriage and take a new wife led to a major split with the Catholic Church.
A more public royal wedding took place on January 25, 1858. The bride was Princess Victoria, daughter of England’s Queen Victoria. After Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” was played at the ceremony, many future couples chose to use the song at their weddings.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle danced to the same song at every inaugural ball in January of 2009: “At Last,” made famous by singer Etta James. James was born on this date in 1938.