August 14 in history:
According to some aviation experts, the first official airplane flight in America happened on this day in 1901 in Connecticut. Gustave Whitehead claimed that he flew a plane half-a-mile and reached an altitude of 50 feet. That was more than two years before the Wright Brothers achieved their famous flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. In 2013, the governor of Connecticut signed a law officially declaring that Whitehead’s August 14th flight was the first powered airplane flight in the U.S.
On August 14th, 1893, the world’s first automobile license plates reportedly were issued in Paris.
August 14th is the birthday of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” star Steve Martin (1945).
Oh, did I forget to mention trains? Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a famous song about a train in Morocco called the “Marrakesh Express.” Singer and musician David Crosby was born on this date in 1941.
Many electric trains in the northern U.S. stopped working on August 14th, 2003, when a control room problem in Ohio led to the largest blackout ever in North America. More than 50 million people were left without power in eight states and much of eastern Canada.
May 26th in history:
On this date in 1894, Nicholas II became the czar of Russia. As it turned out, he would be the last czar.
President Andrew Johnson narrowly avoided being removed from office as his impeachment trial in the Senate ended on May 26th, 1868. Johnson would not be the last president to be impeached and tried.
Visitors to the Eiffel Tower in Paris could get to the top by elevator for the first time on this date in 1889. The tower had opened to the public less than a month earlier.
And mountain climber George Willig chose May 26th as the day in 1977 that he would climb the South Tower of New York’s World Trade Center … from the outside. Willig had designed special climbing tools to be inserted into the tracks used for window-washing scaffolds. After he reached the top, Willig was fined for his stunt: a total of a dollar and 10 cents (one cent for each of the skyscraper’s 110 stories).
May 20th in history:
Vasco da Gama reached India on this date in 1498, after starting in Portugal and going around Africa.
Charles Lindbergh began his historic flight across the Atlantic from Long Island on May 20th, 1927. He was the first person to successfully fly solo across the ocean to Europe without stopping.
Lindbergh’s flight began on the 19th birthday of future movie star Jimmy Stewart (1908). In 1957, Stewart would star as Lindbergh in a movie about the flight to Paris, called The Spirit of St. Louis.
Jimmy Stewart won an Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story,” and his hit movies include “Vertigo” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also starred as a lawyer in the CBS TV series “Hawkins” in 1973. Another prime-time series on CBS in ’73 was “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” Cher, born on this date in 1946, moved beyond records and TV to a successful movie career, and won a Best Actress Oscar for “Moonstruck” in 1987.
March 22nd in history:
It can be used to perform surgery, or play a DVD. It was even used as a deadly weapon against James Bond. The laser beam developed by Arthur Schawlow and Charles Townes was given a U.S. patent on March 22nd, 1960.
James Bond doesn’t usually work with a partner, but TV secret agent James West had a regular partner on “The Wild Wild West”: master of disguise Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, born March 22nd, 1920. Early in his career, Martin was part of a comedy team with a partner named West — Bernie West, who wrote for “All in the Family” and was co-creator of “Three’s Company.”
Born the same day and year as Ross Martin was Werner Klemperer, who played Col. Klink, the commandant of Stalag 13 on “Hogan’s Heroes.” “Wild Wild West” and “Hogan’s Heroes” aired back-to-back Friday nights on CBS for two years in the 1960s.
One “Wild Wild West” episode featured an audience watching a motion picture in which Artemus comically impersonated President Ulysses Grant. The story was set years before the Lumiere brothers actually projected a movie on a screen in Paris, on this day in 1895. That event is considered the first-ever private screening of motion pictures for an audience.
Several people who have won Oscars for their movie work were born on March 22nd: actors Karl Malden (born 1912), Haing S. Ngor (1940), and Reese Witherspoon (1976), “Forrest Gump” screenwriter Eric Roth (1945), and composers Stephen Sondheim (1930) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (1948).
March 8th in history:
Two U.S. presidents died on March 8th: Millard Fillmore in 1874, and William Howard Taft in 1930. Fillmore was not nominated for a second term by the Whigs in 1852, and finished third in the electoral vote in the 1856 election. Taft came in third in his 1912 re-election bid, behind Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Taft served as Chief Justice for nine years, and retired just weeks before his death.
Charles De Gaulle was still president of France when construction began on an airport near Paris that would be named after him. De Gaulle International Airport opened eight years later, on this date in 1974.
Arthur Dent began his travels through the universe when the first episode of the radio show “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was broadcast on the BBC on this date in 1978.
And March 8th is the birthday of the “Skipper” who led the S.S. Minnow on an infamous “three-hour tour.” Alan Hale of “Gilligan’s Island” was born on this date in 1921.
In its final season, “Gilligan’s Island” aired Monday nights on CBS, opposite “The Monkees” on NBC. Monkees singer and drummer Micky Dolenz was born March 8th, 1945.
January 27th in history:
The three astronauts who were scheduled to fly on the first Apollo mission died in a launchpad fire on January 27th, 1967, less than a month before the planned mission. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were unable to escape from the Apollo capsule after a flash fire broke out during an equipment test. A pure oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule was blamed for helping the fire spread quickly.
The fire happened the same day in 1967 that an Outer Space Treaty was signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. Dozens of other countries have signed it since then. The treaty bans countries from putting weapons of mass destruction into Earth orbit, and from using the moon for military purposes.
The Vietnam War officially ended on January 27th, 1973, when Vietnam and the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords. The treaties were signed one week into President Nixon’s second term, and five years after the Paris peace talks began.
The grave of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison has become a popular tourist attraction in Paris. Morrison’s career only lasted four years after the release of the first album by the Doors on January 27th, 1967.
The first Doors album featured the hit “Light My Fire.” On this date in 1984, singer Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire as a result of pyrotechnics used while he was filming a TV commercial for Pepsi.