October 1 in history:
A steamboat called the “New Orleans” reached Louisville, Kentucky on October 1st, 1811, having traveled down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. People in Louisville had never seen a steamboat before, and the vessel was so noisy, stories circulated that the noise was caused by a comet falling into the river.
The U.S. space agency NASA was formed on this date in 1958, almost a full year after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite.
Disney’s EPCOT theme park, known for displays of futuristic technology, opened in Florida on October 1st, 1982. That was 11 years to the day after Disney World opened in the Orlando area.
On that same day in 1982, Sony introduced its first compact disc player in Japan. The first record album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street.”
October 1st of ’82 also marked the first weekly episode of “Knight Rider” on NBC, which featured a high-tech talking car named KITT.
“United States” was chosen as the official name of the 13 American colonies by the Continental Congress on September 9th, 1776. The newly-independent nation had been known as the “United Colonies” before that.
Exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1791, the new nation’s capital along the Potomac River was named “Washington,” after the incumbent president.
Esther was the name of the first child of a president to be born at the White House. She was born September 9th, 1893. Esther’s parents were President Grover Cleveland and his wife, Frances.
People in the audience at the Fox Theater in Riverside, California, didn’t know the name of the movie they were about to see on September 9th, 1939, after the scheduled showing of “Hawaiian Nights.” Therefore, they didn’t know they would be the first regular audience to watch a much-anticipated picture. One witness said the crowd reaction was “thunderous” when the movie’s title appeared on the screen…”Gone With the Wind.”
People watching NBC on September 9th, 1967 didn’t know they were going to see a TV show that would become the #1 prime-time series within two years. “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” debuted as a comedy special leading into the broadcast of the Miss America pageant. Performers on the special who would become regulars on the “Laugh-In” series included Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, and Jo Anne Worley.
July 10th in history:
There was no such thing as a communications satellite until July 10th, 1962, when the first Telstar was sent into orbit. On that same day in ’62, President Kennedy signed a bill called the All-Channel Receiver Act, requiring new TV sets in the U.S. to carry UHF signals beyond VHF Channel 13.
Satellite technology helped make TV programs like “ABC World News Tonight” possible. That newscast debuted on July 10th, 1978, officially replacing the anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters. Three men – Frank Reynolds, Max Robinson and Peter Jennings – anchored the program from three different cities.
ABC’s new newscast began on the 58th birthday of competitor David Brinkley, who was then co-anchor of “NBC Nightly News”. Three years later, Brinkley moved to ABC.
April 12th in history:
A man moved around the Earth in a space capsule for the first time on April 12th, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit.
Two accidents involving Soviet submarines have happened on April 12th. In 1970, the submarine K-8 sank while being towed in the North Atlantic after a fire. Fifty-two men died when the sub went down with nuclear torpedoes aboard. On April 12th of 1963, the nuclear sub K-33 collided with a Finnish merchant ship. The accident was kept a secret for 44 years.
“The Hunt for Red October,” partly set aboard a Soviet sub, was the first successful novel by author Tom Clancy, born on this date in 1947.
Clancy once appeared as a guest on NBC’s “Late Night” show, but not during David Letterman’s time as the show’s host. Letterman was born the same day and year as Clancy. He was the original host of “Late Night,” from 1982 until 1993, when he moved to CBS and renamed his program “The Late Show.” Letterman retired from the show in 2015, and was succeeded by Stephen Colbert.
Yet another man born on April 12th, 1947, is actor Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, Kevin’s dad, on “The Wonder Years.” Letterman left NBC the same year that “The Wonder Years” ended its run on ABC.
February 22nd in history:
Another legendary sports event happened on this date in 1980: the “Miracle on Ice,” in which the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team surprised the world by beating the Soviets, 4-3, in the semi-final round of the Winter Games. The Americans went on to win the gold against Finland in the games at Lake Placid, New York.
Actor Kirk Douglas once served as royalty at a winter carnival in Lake Placid. During the week of the Miracle on Ice game, Douglas was hosting “Saturday Night Live” in New York, featuring NBC announcer Don Pardo, born on this day in 1918. Until his death in 2014, Pardo had been the SNL announcer for most of the show’s run. Pardo also worked on the original versions of “Jeopardy” and “The Price is Right,” and broke the news of President Kennedy’s assassination on WNBC-TV in New York in 1963.
David Letterman was getting ready to move his talk show from NBC to CBS when it was announced on February 22nd, 1993 that CBS had bought the Ed Sullivan Theater, to keep Letterman’s show in New York.
On this day in 1964, the Beatles returned to England after their famous first visit to the U.S., which included three straight appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The band had pre-recorded its performance which would be seen on “Sullivan” the next night.
January 22nd in history:
From “beautiful downtown Burbank,” the first episode of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in” aired on NBC on January 22, 1968. The fast-paced mix of one-liners, slapstick and political humor lasted five-and-a-half years, making stars of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin, and inspiring the even longer-lasting imitator, “Hee Haw.”
An early feature of “Laugh-In” was “Sock It to Me Time.” The night of January 22nd, 1973, was “Sock It to Me Time” for heavyweight boxing champ Joe Frazier, as he was knocked down repeatedly by George Foreman in a title fight in Jamaica. Foreman won the championship when the fight was stopped in the second round.
Foreman is best known today for selling the George Foreman Grill on TV. Hosts of popular food shows on TV who were born on January 22 include Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet (1934), Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet (1939), and Food Network personality Guy Fieri (1968).
December 28 in history:
Galileo is thought to be the first person to have seen the planet Neptune, observing it through his telescope on December 28th, 1612. But he is not considered the discoverer of Neptune, because he reportedly thought it was a star, instead of a planet.
An audience in Paris saw movies on December 28th, 1895, and became the first people to pay admission to watch films. The Lumiere brothers sold tickets to a screening of scenes from everyday life in France. We don’t know if they sold popcorn for the occasion.
Another type of image seen on a screen was publicized on that same day in 1895. That’s when German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen published a paper “On a New Kind of Rays,” where he described the discovery of a form of light which could pass through skin but not bones. The new ray became known as an X-ray.
The X-ray is radiation, but it’s not considered radioactive. So if a spider zapped by an X-ray bit you, chances are you would not develop spider powers…as far as we know. The comic book writer who created Spider-Man and other Marvel comics, Stan Lee, was born on December 28th, 1922.
A special 2009 edition of the Spider-Man comic book, called “The Short Halloween,” was written by “Saturday Night Live” veterans Seth Meyers and Bill Hader. Meyers, born on this day in 1973, was best known for anchoring “Weekend Update” on SNL before succeeding Jimmy Fallon as the host of “Late Night” on NBC in 2014.