December 26 in history:
A nine-point earthquake under the Indian Ocean triggered a series of tsunamis that battered 14 countries on December 26th, 2004. More than 280,000 people died, with the largest loss of life coming in Indonesia. Ocean waves reportedly rose as high as 100 feet.
A theatre fire in Richmond, Virginia, on December 26th, 1811 was considered one of the worst disasters in U.S. history at the time. Seventy-two of the 600 people attending the Richmond Theatre that night were killed by the fire, including the governor of Virginia.
Two of America’s longest-living presidents died on December 26th, more than 30 years apart. Both were vice presidents who rose to the presidency on short notice. Harry Truman was 88 when he died on the day after Christmas of 1972. 93-year-old Gerald Ford died in 2006, just weeks after setting the record for longevity among U.S. presidents.
Future Confederate President Jefferson Davis was among 22 West Point cadets placed under House arrest on this day in 1826 for their alleged roles in the “Eggnog Riot” at the U.S. Military Academy. The uprising resulted from a Christmas party attended by the cadets, where whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog.
Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick starred as an alcoholic couple in the movie “Days of Wine and Roses,” which opened in the U.S. on December 26th, 1962. Also appearing in the film was Jack Klugman, who later became famous as Oscar Madison in the 1970’s TV version of “The Odd Couple.” Lemmon played Felix Ungar in the 1968 “Odd Couple” movie. “Days of Wine and Roses” opened the same month that Tony Randall (Felix to Klugman’s Oscar) portrayed an alcoholic ad man on a TV episode of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.”
October 24 in history:
Here’s a holiday experiment that didn’t work: moving Veterans’ Day away from the traditional date of November 11th. The holiday, originally called Armistice Day, observed the date on which World War I ended in 1918. But starting in 1971, Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day all became Monday holidays for federal government employees. Veterans’ Day was switched to the fourth Monday in October…and was observed that way for the last time on October 24th, 1977, before being returned to November 11th.
October 24th of 1951 was designated the last day of World War II by President Truman. Germany and Japan both surrendered to the Allies in 1945, but the European war never officially ended with a peace treaty. Truman apparently got tired of waiting to reach an agreement with a divided Germany, so he declared the war to be over.
Over the falls in a barrel…that where Annie Edson Taylor went on her 46th birthday, October 24th, 1901. She became famous as the first woman to ride over Niagara Falls inside a barrel.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford went over a cliff in a famous scene from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which opened around the U.S. on this date in 1969. Both Redford and Newman won Oscars in the 1980s, as did two actors who were born on October 24th: F. Murray Abraham (1939), who starred in “Amadeus,” and Kevin Kline (1947), a winner for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
September 18 in history:
On September 18th, 1837, a stationery store opened on Broadway in New York. It was founded by John B. Young and Charles Tiffany. After a few years, the Tiffany and Young store became just Tiffany and Co., and concentrated on selling jewelry.
The 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” based on a book by Truman Capote, opens with Audrey Hepburn window-shopping outside the famous store. Hepburn got a major career break on this date in 1951, when she screen-tested for the film “Roman Holiday” at the Pinewood Studios in England. She won the female lead, and won an Oscar for the role.
Another Capote book which inspired a famous movie was the real-life crime thriller “In Cold Blood.” That film gave a major career break to former child actor Robert Blake, who later went on to play the TV detective “Baretta.” Blake was born September 18th, 1933.
It wasn’t Truman Capote, but Harry S Truman, who launched an institution that began on September 18th, 1947. The Central Intelligence Agency was founded on that day, the result of a National Security Act signed by President Truman.
July 17 in history:
During the First World War, when England was fighting against Germany, English King George V officially changed his family name from the German-sounding “Saxe Coburg and Gotha” to the more British-sounding “Windsor” on July 17th, 1917.
One year later, on July 17th of 1918, George’s relatives in the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. King George was a first cousin to both Czar Nicholas and Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm.
By 1945, Stalin was leader of Russia and the entire Soviet Union. On July 17th of that year, he was meeting with U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Potsdam Conference, to decide the future of Nazi Germany after World War II. During the three-week conference, Churchill was voted out of the Prime Minister’s office. His successor, Clement Attlee, completed the Potsdam talks.
Germany would be led by chancellors after the two world wars. The first female Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was born on this date in 1954.
July 15th in history:
The middle of July is a popular time for political parties to choose their presidential candidates. President Harry Truman accepted the Democratic nomination on July 15th of 1948, and Jimmy Carter gave his acceptance speech during the 1976 Democratic convention on the 15th. Bill Clinton won the nomination on July 15th, 1992 at the Democratic convention, and Republican Barry Goldwater was nominated on this day during the Republican convention in 1964.
Goldwater’s nomination happened on the 26th birthday of his son, Barry Goldwater Jr., who was born in Arizona and later served as a Republican Congressman from California for seven terms. Another Arizona native, singer Linda Ronstadt, was born on July 15th of 1946.
Linda Ronstadt is famous for recording rock songs and Spanish-language albums. A language barrier was broken on this date in 1799 when a rock known as the “Rosetta Stone” was discovered in Egypt. The stone has the same message printed three times, in hieroglyphics and two other languages, allowing experts to translate Egyptian sign language.
Some folks might need a Rosetta stone to figure out abbreviations used in messages on Twitter (LOL). The internet service limiting messages (“tweets”) to 140 characters was launched July 15th, 2006.
April 11th in history:
Famous pink slips on April 11th …
In 1951, President Harry Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East, after MacArthur objected to policies of the U.S. and the United Nations.
Uganda’s “President for Life,” Idi Amin, fled the country after eight years in power on this date in 1979.
The Treaty of Fountainbleau, Napoleon’s pink slip, was signed on April 11th, 1814. Under the treaty, several European countries required Napoleon to step down as emperor of France, which led to his exile to Elba.
And the last emperor of China, Puyi, was fired by Chinese Communists. His story was told in the movie called “The Last Emperor,” which won Best Picture at the Oscars on April 11th, 1988.