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.
March 19th in history:
On March 19th, 1918, Congress approved Daylight Saving Time and the formation of time zones across the country.
The first Academy Awards broadcast on television started at 10:30 Eastern Time (7:30 Pacific Time) on March 19th, 1953. The program originated both in Hollywood and New York. Gary Cooper was named Best Actor for playing the marshal in “High Noon.”
Real-life Western lawman Wyatt Earp was born on March 19th, 1848. Earp has been a character in many movies, including “Sunset” (1988), featuring Bruce Willis (born on this day in 1955) as movie cowboy Tom Mix.
March 18th in history:
On March 18th, 1850, businessmen William Fargo and Henry Wells combined their express mail businesses to start American Express. They started another famous delivery and banking company a short time later, known for its wagons crossing the American frontier, with Wells getting first billing.
Aleksei Leonov stepped into space (the final frontier) on this day in 1965. The Soviet cosmonaut was the first human to take a “space walk,” lasting 12 minutes, as part of the Voskhod 2 mission.
The governor-general of Canada became a pioneer on this date in 1893, when he pledged to donate a silver challenge cup to the best hockey team in Canada. The cup still exists, only now it’s awarded to the best team in the National Hockey League. And it still bears the name of its donor, Lord Frederick Stanley.
Stanley was appointed to the Canadian post by England’s Queen Victoria. March 18th is the birthday of Mary Tudor, Queen of France (born to the King and Queen of England in 1496)…singer and actress Queen Latifah (born Dana Owens in 1970)…and a beauty queen, former Miss America Vanessa Williams (born 1963).
March 16th in history:
The Army Corps of Engineers was established on March 16th, 1802, to operate the military academy at West Point.
On this date in 1916, General John J. Pershing (West Point class of 1886) led the horsemen of the Cavalry across the Mexican border to search for revolutionary Pancho Villa.
Most people gave up horses for cars in the early 20th century. On March 16th, 1958, Ford produced its 50 millionth car, a Thunderbird. Exactly 10 years later on the same date, General Motors made its 100 millionth auto. It was an Olds Toronado.
March 15th in history:
Beware March 15th, the Ides of March — the day in 44 B.C. when emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by several members of the Roman Senate.
The Russian title “Czar,” meaning an emperor, is thought to be related to the name Caesar. Czar Nicholas the 2nd of Russia abdicated on March 15th, 1917. His brother then became the czar.
Russia was part of the Soviet Union for decades after the monarchy fell. On March 15th, 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev officially took the title of “president” of the USSR. He was the last Soviet president, when the Union disbanded the following year.
A band called the Ides of March was climbing up the record charts on this day in 1970 with its biggest hit, “Vehicle.” At the same time, the song “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly and the Family Stone was headed down the charts after hitting number 1 in February. The band’s leader, Sly Stone, was born on March 15th (year in dispute, 1943 or 1944).