December 24 in history:
Millions of Americans spent part of their Christmas Eve in 1968 watching a TV broadcast from a spaceship circling the moon. That day, the astronauts of Apollo 8 became the first humans to orbit the moon. In the evening, the crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders concluded a broadcast to Earth by reading from the Book of Genesis as they photographed the lunar surface from inside the spacecraft.
The Apollo 8 mission figured into the plot of a 1988 episode of “The Wonder Years,” in which Kevin tries to work up the courage to call a girl he met at school. Although the episode clearly identifies the flight as Apollo 8, the kids in the show are watching the launch on TV at school (the launch was on a Saturday), and when the Arnold family watches the Christmas Eve broadcast, it appears to be just a regular school night.
The Apollo 8 message from the moon reached the earth very quickly in 1968. When the U.S. and Great Britain signed a treaty in Europe to end the War of 1812, word of the treaty took about two months to reach America. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve of 1814. The Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks later.
The Library of Congress had been burned earlier in 1814, when British forces set fire to the U.S. Capitol. The second major fire at the Library happened on December 24th, 1851. Many of Thomas Jefferson’s personal books donated to the Library were destroyed in that blaze.
Contrary to popular belief, the Library of Congress does not keep a copy of every book published in the U.S., but it just might have some copies of the popular Twilight books about modern-day vampires. Twilight author Stephenie Meyer was born on December 24th, 1973.
March 14th in history:
Warren G. Harding made history on March 14th, 1923, as the first president to file an income tax report. This was 10 years after the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing income taxes in the U.S.
Harding died of an illness later that year, the third year of his presidency. John F. Kennedy also died in his third year as president. Just after his assassination, Kennedy was buried in a simple grave at Arlington Cemetery. On this day in 1967, Kennedy’s body was moved to a more elaborate gravesite. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and two Kennedy children also are buried at the site, with the graves of Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy nearby.
President Kennedy set a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. Astronauts Frank Borman and Eugene Cernan both orbited the moon on different Apollo flights, and Cernan actually walked on the moon during the last manned lunar mission, Apollo 17. Both men were born on March 14th…Borman in 1928, and Cernan six years later.