February 1st in history:
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.
The 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln” was directed by John Ford, born February 1st, 1894. Ford is best known for his Westerns, and won four Oscars for directing in his career. He won his last directing Oscar, for “The Quiet Man,” in March of 1953…the same year he made “Mogambo,” starring Clark Gable, born on this day in 1901. Gable won an Oscar for the comedy “It Happened One Night,” but his most famous role in a 30-year movie career was as Rhett Butler in the Civil War romance “Gone With the Wind.”
Ford also won an Oscar for the Dust Bowl drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on a John Steinbeck novel. The title comes from the first verse of 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.
The University of Minnesota Marching Band routinely performs “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Minnesota Gopher football games in Minneapolis. For the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, singer Justin Timberlake was chosen to star in the halftime show, 14 years after his controversial February 1st, 2004 appearance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS for broadcasting the brief moment where Timberlake tore part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast, in what became known as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
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 15 in history:
Conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived with his army at Cajamarca, the capital of the Incas, on November 15th, 1532. Pizarro’s men urged the Incan king Atahualpa to convert to Christianity and pledge allegiance to Spain. The king refused. He was captured and his army was attacked.
General William Tecumseh Sherman set fire to Atlanta on this date in 1864, beginning a March to the Sea (the Atlantic) by Union troops. The burning of Atlanta is a major scene in the movie “Gone with the Wind.”
Another military leader known for his ability to move armies, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, was born on November 15th, 1891.
Zebulon Pike was an explorer rather than a conqueror. On this day in 1806, Pike discovered a large mountain in the Rockies which was later named Pike’s Peak.
And for fast-food lovers wanting to know “Where’s the beef?”, their journey often takes them to Wendy’s restaurants. Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy’s outlet, named after his daughter Melinda (nicknamed “Wendy”), in Columbus, Ohio on November 15th, 1969.
October 9 in history:
The Washington Monument opened to the public on October 9th, 1888, 40 years after construction began. The project was halted for many years because of a lack of funding and the intervention of the Civil War. The observation deck 500 feet above the ground was the highest man-made tourist spot in the world…for only seven months, until the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was built for a world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. The guillotine became a symbol of the Revolution, and was the official method of execution in France for almost 200 years. On this date in 1981, France ended beheadings by guillotine as it abolished the national death penalty.
“You’d better keep your head, little girl” is a line from “Run For Your Life,” a song by John Lennon about a man warning his girlfriend not to cheat on him. John’s more uplifting tunes include many love songs written with Paul McCartney, and solo songs such as “Imagine.” Lennon was born October 9th, 1940. It’s also the birthday of another man named John who performed with a famous British rock band of the Sixties, John Entwistle of The Who (1944).
May 2nd in history:
The search for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden ended with a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2nd, 2011. Bin Laden and four other people were shot and killed by Navy SEALs under cover of darkness. It was still May 1st in the U.S., when President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death on television. The raid was dramatized in the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was shot by his own troops on May 2nd, 1863, at the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia. The troops reportedly mistook Jackson and his companions for Union soldiers. Jackson died eight days later.
German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known by the nickname “The Red Baron,” shot down 80 enemy pilots during the first World War. The Baron was born on this date in 1892. Other people born on May 2nd who became famous under assumed names: British singer Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold Dorsey in 1936), and pro wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (1972).
April 9th in history:
The Civil War ended on this date in 1865, when Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.
Seventy-four years after the end of the war, on April 9th, 1939, African-American opera singer Marian Anderson performed an Easter Sunday concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson had been banned from performing at the DAR Constitution Hall and a public high school because of her race.
Singer, actor, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson was born April 9th, 1898. Robeson is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He was born on the same day and year as Pro Football Hall of Famer “Curly” Lambeau, the first coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Curly Lambeau’s name lives on in Green Bay, where the Packers stadium is called Lambeau Field. Another famous stadium opened in Houston, Texas, on this day in 1965…the Harris County Domed Stadium, later renamed the Astrodome. The dome hosted NFL games until 1996, and was the home field for the baseball Astros through 1999.