February 16th in history:
On February 16th, 1959, Fidel Castro officially became the premier of Cuba. Many people mark January 1st of 1959 instead as the date Castro took power, because that was the day former dictator Fulgencia Batista was forced out of office.
A long-ago king made news on February 16th, 1923. That’s when archaeologist Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber of Egypt’s King Tut.
And the Kings had to stop playing on this date in 2005. So did the Devils, Bruins and Canadiens, and all of the other teams in the National Hockey League. The NHL cancelled the rest of the 2004-’05 season because of a labor dispute.
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.
August 13 in history:
On August 13th, 1889, German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin received a patent for a “navigable balloon,” which would later become known as a blimp or a “zeppelin.”
Germany was divided into East and West by 1961, and on August 13th of that year, work began on a physical barrier to separate East and West Berlin. The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years until the border between the two halves of the city was opened in 1989.
East Berlin and the Cold War figured into the plot of the 1966 movie “Torn Curtain,” the 50th film directed by “master of suspense” Alfred Hitchcock, born on this date in 1899. Hitchcock’s 51st movie was another Cold War thriller called “Topaz,” set partly in Communist Cuba. That movie featured a cameo appearance, through archival footage, of Cuban premier Fidel Castro, born August 13th, 1926.
In Hitchcock’s film “North By Northwest,” Cary Grant is mistaken for a spy who doesn’t really exist. The phony spy was invented to keep a female agent’s cover from being blown. The cover of real-life CIA agent Valerie Plame was blown by a newspaper columnist in a public scandal during the George W. Bush administration. Plame was born on August 13th, 1963.