March 24th in history:
On March 24th, 1900, the mayor of New York City broke ground for the city’s first subway line to link Manhattan and Brooklyn. The first New York subway would open four years later.
March 24th is the birthday of American businessman George Francis Train (1829). Appropriately, Train was one founder of the Union Pacific railroad. He also campaigned for president, and for “Dictator of the United States.” Train made a trip around the world in less than three months, and reportedly inspired Jules Verne to write “Around the World in 80 Days.” Verne died on this date in 1905, at age 77.
You don’t have to be a science fiction nerd to like Jules Verne’s works, or to like two actors with March 24th birthdays who are famous for playing nerds in the movies and on TV: Robert Carradine (born 1954), Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds, and Jim Parsons (1973), Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.”
March 17th in history:
Franklin D. Roosevelt resigned from the New York State Senate on March 17th, 1913, to become assistant secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. It was his eighth wedding anniversary. In the next 20 years, Roosevelt would become a vice-presidential candidate, governor of New York and president of the United States.
Eliot Spitzer had been governor of New York for just over a year when he resigned on this date in 2008, after a prostitution scandal in which he admitted to being a client of an escort agency.
New Yorkers like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a big parade in Manhattan. The Irish holiday was celebrated in New York City for the first time on March 17th, 1756.
St. Patrick’s Day is the birthday of two actors who have starred in movies and TV shows about New York City: Kurt Russell (born 1951), who played Snake Plissken in the action drama Escape from New York; and Gary Sinise (1955), Mac Taylor from “CSI: New York,” also known as Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump.
Sinise also played real-life astronaut Ken Mattingly in the movie Apollo 13. Mattingly was born March 17th, 1936. He was pulled from the Apollo 13 mission days before its launch in 1970 after being exposed to German measles, so he missed being aboard the spacecraft that had to return to Earth after an explosion. Mattingly did get to circle the moon two years later, as the command module pilot of Apollo 16.
February 27th in history:
Historians believe a speech by Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1860 gave him a major boost toward the presidency. Lincoln impressed an audience with an address at the Cooper Union hall in New York City, raising his national profile.
If Lincoln had not been shot during his second term, he could have run for as many terms as he liked. There was nothing in the Constitution to stop him — until February 27th, 1951, when the 22nd Amendment was ratified. That amendment was passed after Franklin Roosevelt was elected president four times. It says a president can be elected to no more than two terms — or just one full term, if he or she took over for another president who had served less than half a term.
February 27th is the birthday of two men who have run for president: consumer advocate Ralph Nader (1934) and former Texas Governor John Connally (1917). Also, the birthday of a recent White House resident, Chelsea Clinton (1980).
New York City was incorporated on February 2, 1653. At the time, its Dutch settlers called it New Amsterdam.
One of the busiest buildings in New York, the Grand Central Terminal, opened on this day in 1913.
Frank Sinatra had a hit single with the song “New York, New York” in 1980. That was 40 years after he got a big break by joining the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. His first performance with the Dorsey band was February 2, 1940.
Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols had a top-ten hit in Britain with an unusual cover version of Frank Sinatra’s hit “My Way.” Vicious (real name, John Ritchie) died in New York City on this day in 1979, at age 21, from an overdose of heroin supplied by his mother.
January 31st in history:
Two Wisconsin towns called Kilbourntown and Juneautown merged on January 31st, 1846, after years of disputes. They were on opposite sides of a river, and Kilbourntown on the west side often attempted to isolate Juneautown to the east. When the two towns finally became a single city, they named the new community after the river between them: the Milwaukee River.
Former Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was the baseball commissioner who suspended outspoken player John Rocker on this date in 2000. Rocker, a star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, had angered many fans with an interview in Sports Illustrated where he made racist and anti-gay remarks, and said unflattering things about New York City. January 31st also is the birthday of Ernie Banks (born 1931), the first black player for the Chicago Cubs.
And the 3M Company turned a slur against a nationality into a successful brand name when it started selling Scotch Tape on January 31st, 1930. The name “Scotch” came from a customer complaint that 3M put too little adhesive on the tape, in order to save money.
November 25 in history:
The British occupation of New York City, which began in 1776, ended on November 25th, 1783. That was several weeks after the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the American Revolution. New York became the capital of the U.S. for several years, through the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789.
President Dwight Eisenhower had a stroke on this date in 1957. Although it was a minor stroke, the health scare was serious enough for the president to write a letter authorizing Vice President Richard Nixon to assume power, if Eisenhower was unable to carry out his duties. The crisis was one factor leading to the creation of the 25th Amendment, which also permits the appointment of a vice president if that office becomes vacant.
An amendment dealing with presidential succession was discussed again after the John F. Kennedy assassination. President Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on November 25th of 1963 — the day his son John Junior turned three years old. Film footage shows young John saluting at his father’s funeral procession.
Two other presidential children — twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, the daughters of George W. Bush — were born on this date in 1981. Their grandfather George Herbert Walker Bush was in his first year as vice president at the time.
October 27 in history:
Confrontations between Mormons and other citizens led the governor of Missouri, Lilburn Boggs, to order all Mormons to be expelled from the state. The order issued on October 27th, 1838, was known as the “Extermination Order.” It was repealed officially in 1976.
Fans of the St. Louis Cardinals might have wished for an order to keep the Boston Red Sox out of Missouri in 2004. On October 27th, 2004, the Red Sox beat the Cardinals at Busch Stadium to win a World Series for the first time since 1918. The final scene of the movie “Fever Pitch,” with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, was filmed at the end of that game.
Boston has one of the oldest subway systems in America, introduced in 1912. But it’s not as old or as famous as the New York subway, which opened on this date in 1904.