August 21 in history:
The first Lincoln-Douglas debate took place in Ottawa, Illinois on August 21st, 1858. Abraham Lincoln was running against incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, and their seven debates around Illinois all dealt with the issue of slavery.
The outside wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. lists the names of the 48 states that were in the Union when the memorial was dedicated in 1922. Two more states came along in 1959, Alaska and Hawaii. On this date in ’59, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the law making Hawaii the 50th state.
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. A few days earlier, on August 21st of that year, King tried out the “I have a dream” theme during a speech to an insurance association convention in Chicago.
During this week in 1963, Chicago native Allan Sherman had a top 10 hit with his novelty song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah! (A Letter From Camp),” in which a kid writes home about his awful experiences at “Camp Granada.” Before becoming famous by doing song parodies, Sherman produced the Goodson-Todman game show “I’ve Got a Secret.” “Hello, Muddah” was based on camp letters from Sherman’s son Robert, who followed in his dad’s footsteps by also producing shows for Goodson-Todman.
While Sherman’s letter-writing kid was suffering at Camp Granada in 1963, Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman were spending time together that summer at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, according to the movie “Dirty Dancing,” released on August 21st, 1987. “Dirty Dancing” premiered on the 63rd birthday of actor Jack Weston, who played resort owner Max Kellerman in the film.
August 12 in history:
The U.S flag was raised over Iolani Palace in Honolulu on August 12th, 1898, marking America’s official annexation of Hawaii. The last monarch to reign over Hawaii from the palace was Queen Lili’uokalani.
August 12th is marked as the day in 30 B.C. when Egyptian Queen Cleopatra the 7th died, apparently committing suicide by allowing a snake to bite her.
Director Cecil B. DeMille, born on this date in 1881, made a movie about Cleopatra in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert. “Cleopatra” was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards the following year.
Actor John Cazale only made five movies in his brief career, but they were all nominated for best picture Oscars: the first two “Godfather” films, “The Conversation”, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “The Deer Hunter”. Cazale died of cancer at age 42. He was born August 12th, 1935.
May 1st in history:
May 1st seems to be a big day for “kings” …
On May 1st of 1328, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton recognized the Kingdom of Scotland as independent from the Kingdom of England. That declaration was reversed exactly 379 years later – May 1st, 1707 – when the Act of Union joined the Kingdoms of Scotland and England to form Great Britain.
King Kamehameha I established the Kingdom of Hawai’i on this date in 1785.
The star of “Blue Hawaii,” Elvis Presley (the King of Rock and Roll), married Priscilla Beaulieu in Las Vegas on May 1st, 1967.
The Empire State Building, a popular hangout of King Kong, was dedicated in New York on May 1st, 1931.
An obituary of Jack Paar called him the original “King of Late Night,” as host of the “Tonight Show” in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Paar was born on this date in 1918. Paar inherited the “Tonight” job from Steve Allen, whose TV shows often featured comedian Louis Nye, born today in 1913. Nye’s TV work included a recurring role as Sonny Drysdale on “The Beverly Hillbillies”.
February 9th in history:
It took 100 years after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution for the agriculture secretary to become a member of the president’s cabinet. On February 9th, 1889, President Cleveland signed a bill to make the USDA an official Cabinet department.
By the time the Ag Department joined the Cabinet, Hawaii was already importing migrant workers from Japan to work on sugar plantations. The first legal Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii for the first time on this date in 1885. Illegal immigrants had traveled to the islands for about 20 years before that, but the government of Japan did not approve of their immigration until the 1880s.
In 1942, America was at war with the Land of the Rising Sun because of the invasion of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. To help industry meet supply demands for wartime, the U.S. began year-round daylight saving time on February 9th, 1942, and kept it in effect until the end of the war.
And February 9th is a “Day/Light” birthday for two TV stars…Charlie Day (born 1976), from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and Judith Light (1949), from “Who’s the Boss?” and “Ugly Betty.”
December 7 in history:
Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7th, 1787. As a result, it uses “The First State” as a nickname.
The most recent state to join the union, Hawaii, was not a state yet on December 7th, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese war planes. The surprise attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, early on a Sunday morning, claimed nearly 2500 American lives, destroyed dozens of U.S. planes, and sank four battleships. Almost 1200 people died when the U.S.S. Arizona exploded. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day.
Many Americans first heard the news about Pearl Harbor during a break in a CBS radio broadcast of the New York Philharmonic. On December 7th, 1930, an experimental television broadcast of a radio orchestra concert reportedly featured the first TV commercial in U.S. history. The ad, broadcast in Boston, promoted a fur company that sponsored the radio show. The commercial was illegal because the government didn’t allow advertising on television yet.
Another television first happened on December 7th, in 1969…the first broadcast of the “Frosty the Snowman” cartoon special on CBS. With characters drawn by Mad magazine artist Paul Coker Jr., the show featured the voice of comedian Jackie Vernon as Frosty, with Jimmy Durante as the narrator.
November 26 in history:
Captain James Cook became the first European tourist to visit the Hawaiian island of Maui (sort of) on November 26th, 1778. Cook apparently did not find a good place to land on the island, so he only sailed around Maui. It took another eight years for a different European visitor to set foot on land.
A bird called the po’o-uli, or the black-faced honeycreeper, was discovered on Maui in 1973. But some animal experts believe the po’o-uli doesn’t live anywhere anymore. No more than 200 of the birds were thought to exist in the ’70s. Only three were found in the late 1990s, and they didn’t live close enough to each other to mate naturally. The only black-faced honeycreeper kept in captivity died of malaria on Maui, on this date in 2004.
The Honeydrippers was a 1980s band with a short life. Headed by Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, the group only released one EP, featuring the single “Sea of Love,” which was climbing the Billboard Top 40 chart on November 26th, 1984. It peaked at number 3 in early 1985.
And the Jackie Gleason series “The Honeymooners” featured a new episode called “Brother Ralph” on November 26th, 1955. The “Honeymooners” began as short comedy sketches starring Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Art Carney as sewer worker Ed Norton. It lasted just one season as a half-hour sitcom, in 1955-56.