Explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet began their journey to map the Mississippi River on May 17th, 1673. The trip started on Lake Michigan. The explorers traveled down the Wisconsin River to reach the Mississippi a month later, near the modern towns of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and Marquette, Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet passed present-day Kentucky on their trek down the Mississippi. The first Kentucky Derby was run on this day in 1875 — not the first Saturday in May, or even a Saturday at all (it was a Monday). The winning horse was Aristides.
Secretariat set the record for the fastest time at the Kentucky Derby in 1973. “Secretariat” made regular appearances on a late-night talk show (okay, it was two guys in a horse costume) on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Scottish comedian Ferguson was born May 17th, 1962. Before getting the hosting job on “The Late Late Show,” Ferguson played Drew’s boss on “The Drew Carey Show.”
And May 17th is the birthday of an actor famous for roles in movies about a river journey (“Apocalypse Now”) and a motorcycle trek (“Easy Rider”) — Dennis Hopper (born 1936).
April 22nd in history:
The first “Earth Day” was observed on April 22nd, 1970.
Historians say Christopher Columbus wasn’t trying to prove the Earth was round in his voyage to the Americas in 1492, but was trying to find a shorter route to Asia across the ocean. Columbus was sponsored by Queen Isabella of Spain, born on this date in 1451.
Settlers raced to claim their own piece of earth when the Oklahoma Territory was opened at noon on April 22nd, 1889.
Eddie Albert was in “Oklahoma!” (the movie musical, that is), playing the peddler Ali Hakim. Albert was born on April 22nd, 17 years after the opening of the Oklahoma territory.
Eddie Albert is most famous for playing lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on “Green Acres,” but he also received two Oscar nominations in his long career. Jack Nicholson has the most Oscar nominations among male actors, with 12 to his credit. Nicholson, born on April 22nd, 1937, already had been nominated for “Easy Rider” and “Chinatown” before winning the first of his three Oscars, for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”