February 13th in history:
American painter Grant Wood was born in Iowa on February 13th, 1891. Wood created the famous 1930 painting “American Gothic,” showing a farmer and his daughter standing outside their house.
Another Midwestern artist, Charles Schulz, achieved fame and fortune drawing Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the other “Peanuts” characters. Schulz chose to stop drawing the comic strip after 50 years, and coincidentally died the day before the last original “Peanuts” cartoon appeared in newspapers on February 13th, 2000.
And Jesse James and his gang drew their guns and held up a Midwestern bank (in Liberty, Missouri) on February 13th, 1866. It’s said to be the first armed robbery ever committed in the U.S. during peace-time.
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
November 18 in history:
The U.S. was divided into time zones on November 18th, 1883 by the railroad industry. The move was needed so that trains could have standard arrival and departure times, instead of relying on local times based on the position of the sun.
The railroad tune “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe” from the movie The Harvey Girls was the first song to win an Oscar for lyricist Johnny Mercer, born on this date in 1909. Mercer also won Academy Awards for two songs written with Henry Mancini, “Days of Wine and Roses” and “Moon River.”
A steamboat trip on a river is the setting for the first official Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” released on November 18th, 1928. It’s also considered the first successful movie cartoon with sound.
September 25 in history:
On September 25th, 1513, explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the east, while traveling on the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa claimed the ocean for the king and queen of Spain.
On this date in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took office as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
ABC was the first U.S. network to hire a woman to anchor the evening news, when it teamed Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner in 1976. Walters was born on September 25th, 1929.
And the first weekly TV cartoon show about living celebrities debuted on ABC on September 25th, 1965. On “The Beatles” series, the animated adventures portrayed the band members as they looked in 1965. But during the four years that “The Beatles” aired on network TV, the show did take note of the band’s changes in appearance and musical styles.