January 1st in history:
On New Year’s Day of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves that were living in Confederate states.
The people of Cuba were free from the rule of dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1st, 1959 — only to see rebel leader Fidel Castro take over and rule for nearly 50 years. Batista fled to the Dominican Republic, taking millions of dollars with him.
Two colonists associated with the birth of the United States were born on January 1st: Silversmith Paul Revere (1735) was 40 years old when he and others rode to warn people in the Boston area that British forces were coming; and seamstress Betsy Ross (1752) was in her twenties when she proposed a design for the country’s first thirteen-star flag.
December 29 in history:
The former Republic of Texas became the 28th state in the Union on December 29th, 1845.
The U.S. has had two presidents named Johnson…one from Texas, and one from Tennessee. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was born on this date in 1808. Johnson made history as the first president to be impeached, and as the vice president who rose to the Oval Office after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
A 1988 mini-series about Lincoln starred Sam Waterston as President Lincoln, and Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Todd Lincoln. Moore, born on December 29th, 1936, is best known for her comedy roles as Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” She and Waterston also worked together in the 1986 movie Just Between Friends, in which Ted Danson played her husband. Danson, born on this date in 1947, has starred on the TV series “CSI,” “Becker,” “The Good Place,” and on “Cheers” as Boston bartender Sam Malone.
Boston was the home of the first YMCA founded in America. Thomas Sullivan established that YMCA on December 29th, 1851, modeling it after a Y in England.
December 20 in history:
You could say that the Civil War began on December 20th, 1860, when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. The election of Abraham Lincoln as president has been blamed as the crucial event which led slave-holding states to break away. The first actual shots in the war were fired in South Carolina the following April.
Elvis Presley’s first movie role, in Love Me Tender, cast him as the only brother in a Southern family who did not fight in the Civil War. Soon after that movie, Elvis became a soldier in real life, when he received his draft notice to join the Army on this date in 1957.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines took part in a joint invasion of Panama on December 20th, 1989. “Operation Just Cause” removed Panama’s dictator, Manuel Noriega, from power. The George H.W. Bush administration declared the invasion was justified as a way to protect the Panama Canal, and to protect U.S. citizens in the country against threats by Noriega.
November 19 in history:
A new national cemetery was consecrated on November 19th, 1863 at the site of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. The event is remembered today because of President Abraham Lincoln’s two-minute address which began “Fourscore and seven years ago…”
The late-’80s musical group Milli Vanilli is remembered today because its two front men, known as Rob and Fab, did not actually use their own voices on their debut album. The duo announced on November 19th, 1990, that they would give back their Grammy for Best New Artist, awarded nine months earlier.
Two men whose voices and faces became familiar to talk-show fans were born on November 19th.
Comedian Dick Cavett (1936) was given a daytime talk show on ABC in 1968, eventually leading to a late-night show on that network and a series on PBS. Cavett appeared as himself in two movies that won the Oscar for best picture: “Annie Hall” (1977) and “Forrest Gump” (1994).
Larry King appeared as himself in many movies during the 25 years he hosted a prime-time talk show on CNN. King was born on November 19th, 1933…making him exactly five years older than his long-time boss at CNN, Ted Turner.
November 6 in history:
Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States on November 6th, 1860. Over the next 12 months, several Southern states would secede and form the Confederacy. Their first presidential election was exactly one year after Lincoln’s election, on this date in 1861. Former U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had already been appointed Confederate president before winning the election.
The Civil War ended and the Confederacy folded before Davis got to finish his six-year term. After a few years under the Stars and Bars, the Southern states returned to the Stars and Stripes, forever. Saaaay, that might make a good song title! Composer John Philip Sousa thought so. “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is one of the most popular marches written by the “March King,” born on November 6th, 1854.
Sousa commissioned the development of the sousaphone, and another musician who has an instrument named after him shares Sousa’s birthday. Belgian Adolphe Sax, born on this date in 1814, patented the saxophone when he was 31.
Both the sousaphone and saxophone are popular marching-band instruments played at football games. The very first official college football game in the U.S. was played in New Jersey on November 6th, 1869, at Rutgers University. In that first contest, each score was worth only one point, and they played until 10 total points had been scored. Rutgers beat Princeton, 6 to 4.
The streets of one New Jersey city inspired the names of spaces on a classic board game for which Parker Brothers obtained patents on this date in 1935. Pass “Go” and collect $200 if you knew that the landmarks on a “Monopoly” board are actual places in Atlantic City.
August 21 in history:
The first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, Illinois on August 21st, 1858. Abraham Lincoln was running against incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, and their seven debates around Illinois all dealt with the issue of slavery.
The outside wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. lists the names of the 48 states that were in the Union when the memorial was dedicated in 1922. Two more states came along in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii. On this date in ’59, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law making Hawaii the 50th state.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. A few days earlier, on August 21st of that year, King tried out the “I have a dream” theme during a speech to an insurance association convention in Chicago.
During this week in 1963, Chicago native Allan Sherman had a top 10 hit with his novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp),” in which a kid writes home about his awful experiences at “Camp Granada.” Before becoming famous by doing song parodies, Sherman produced the Goodson-Todman game show “I’ve Got a Secret.” “Hello, Muddah” was based on camp letters from Sherman’s son Robert, who followed in his dad’s footsteps by also producing shows for Goodson-Todman.
While Sherman’s letter-writing kid was suffering at Camp Granada in 1963, Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman were spending time together that summer at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, according to the movie “Dirty Dancing,” released on August 21st, 1987. “Dirty Dancing” premiered on the 63rd birthday of actor Jack Weston, who played resort owner Max Kellerman in the film.
April 14th in history:
President Abraham Lincoln was seeing the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington when he was shot on April 14th, 1865.
On this date in 1894, Thomas Edison demonstrated a form of moving-picture show called a “kinetoscope,” consisting of still images viewed in quick succession (better known as a “peep show”).
Two-inch videotape was demonstrated in public for the first time on April 14th, 1956, at a broadcasters’ convention in Chicago.
A rare moment at the Academy Awards show on April 14th, 1969 – a tie for Best Actress. Katharine Hepburn wins her third Oscar, for “The Lion in Winter,” and Barbra Streisand gets her first, for “Funny Girl.”
Several Oscar winners share an April 14th birthday: John Gielgud (1904), Rod Steiger (1925), Julie Christie (1941) and Adrien Brody (1973).
Philip Seymour Hoffman was an Oscar winner for the title role in the 2005 movie “Capote.” The climax of that film shows Truman Capote attending the execution of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock for the Clutter family murders detailed in Capote’s novel “In Cold Blood.” The double execution took place in Lansing, Kansas, on this date in 1965.